Randall City Manager Matt Pantzke gave an update on the city’s Municipal Liquor Store during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Despite being closed to on-sale customers for nearly five months because of COVID-19 restrictions, the liquor store experienced a strong year in 2020.
“(For the) liquor store, which was something we really didn’t know how it would shake out, total revenue was up over the prior year,” Pantzke said. “There was enough money that we transferred, I believe $20,000, from that over to sewer. That included all the remodels and stuff that we did in the building.”
Much of that success was attributed to off-sale purchases being up. Pull tabs and electronic pull tabs were also a strong source of income, though. Pantzke said the store brought in $10,000 in revenue from E-Tabs alone.
He said bringing in electronic pull tabs was not only a good move, but it was an important one for the liquor store to remain competitive.
“I think it’s one of those things that, it’s almost necessary,” Pantzke said. “A lot of people like to go to the bar and gamble now. I think the casinos have taken a hit.”
Pantzke also told the Council the new point-of-sale computer system is in place at the liquor store. He said it went online on Feb. 8, and is more user friendly than the old system. It also will allow the store to more easily offer sales such as military or senior citizen discounts, if it chooses to do so.
He admitted it was a lot of work getting everything transferred over from the previous system, but believes it will be worth it.
“It has a lot of abilities that our old system didn’t,” he said.
On a less positive note, Pantzke did inform the Council that prices have increased for items such as beer and pop. In order to remain competitive, he said, they are going to have to start making larger purchases.
For example, he said they used to get their best price from Anheuser-Busch on purchases of 196 cases, on which it paid $17.20 per case. These orders typically included a mix of six or seven different products along with both cans for off-sale and bottles for the bar.
Now that has changed to where the city will have to purchase 256 cases to get the same price per unit. Those orders can only include 24 packs of cans, and bottles will need to be purchased separately.
“The bottom line is, for us to remain competitive, we’re going to have to make larger purchases,” Pantzke said. “When you see the liquor bills, sometimes they’re going to be slightly higher. We kind of have to compete with the stores in Little Falls and around us. If we don’t, we’re not going to continue to see the same success.”
Mayor Dan Noss pointed out that the price of pop is also going up. Pantzke noted that a 12-pack of cans is now $6.02 each.
“Are they doing that to every liquor store?” asked Council Member Carrie Turner. “Or, are they doing it like, ‘Your volume is this, so you’re going to be at this price line?’”
Pantzke said he didn’t know if it was across the board, but he had spoken with Boone’s Market Owner Adam Boone, who had informed him that his prices were the same as the liquor store. He noted that Boone’s Market does a higher volume than the liquor store.
As a result, he said the liquor store did raise its price on pop a little bit, but it is still 60 cents below the suggested retail price. It’s a trend he said has been noticeable on many more products than just those sold at the liquor store.
“The margins are very slim, but we sell a lot of canned pop on the bar side,” Pantzke said. “Sometimes you just have to have it there. Somebody comes in and gets a bottle of something, they’re going to want mixers with it, so it’s almost necessary to have it.”
Council Member Jim Chyba congratulated Pantzke on the strong year for the liquor store, especially considering the many obstacles created by COVID-19.
Pantzke said he was a bit surprised by it himself, but was happy with the way the year turned out.
“We’re going to do whatever we can to remain competitive,” he said. “I think we’ve got something good that’s working, and we’ll continue to try and follow that same model.”
“You’ve done such an outstanding job of turning that place around,” Noss told Pantzke. “It’s amazing.”
“I’ve had lots of good help,” Pantzke responded.
Randall City Council Briefs:
In other business Wednesday, the Randall City Council:
• Swore in new Council Member Carrie Turner, who is taking the seat of her late husband, Ricky Turner, who died Jan. 7 after a lengthy battle with cancer;
• Approved a donation of $4,100 to Community Services to assist with youth recreational activities;
• Heard an update on Morrison County’s plans to replace a bridge on County Road 1 on the north side of town. Construction is scheduled to begin Sept. 7 and take about three weeks to complete;
• Set May 8 as Randall City-wide Cleanup Day;
• Accepted a $2,788.40 grant from Morrison County to assist with the cost of cleanup day; and
• Approved Planning and Zoning permits for Michael Dahlquist for a 12-by-24-foot portable shed and Tim Strack for 12, 8-by-20-foot storage containers.
The next meeting of the Randall City Council is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 17, at Randall City Hall.