Citing declining sales of 3.2 beer, the owner of an Edina market successfully lobbied to relinquish his right to sell alcohol instead of facing a fine and liquor license suspension for selling beer to an individual under age 21.

The Edina City Council conducted public hearings June 18 to give three businesses a chance to speak before being assessed penalties for selling alcohol to underage purchasers during compliance checks May 14. That day, the police department conducted such checks across the city.

Edina Market & Deli, located at 7102 Amundson Ave., faced a seven-day liquor license suspension and a $2,000 fine for the violation, its third such offense within 24 months. The council, however, was receptive to store owner Asif Dawood’s proposal to give up the business’ liquor license in exchange for the punishment being lifted.

The $2,000 fine would have had a “significant impact” on the small business, which has been in operation since 2009, the store owner said. Dawood said that in the instance leading to the citation, the store clerk looked at the undercover purchaser’s ID, but did not catch that the individual was underaged.

Dawood saw the violation as a good time to give up the store’s liquor license. It’s no longer financially practical, he said, to hold onto a liquor license that, in accordance with state law, only allows stores like Edina Market & Deli to sell what’s commonly known as 3.2 beer, a term given to beer with an alcohol content of no more than 3.2% alcohol by volume.

It made more sense to sell 3.2 beer, Dawood explained, before the state began allowing Sunday liquor sales in 2017. Prior to that change, 3.2 beer was the only kind of beer that could be sold in stores on Sundays.

Aside from the loss of sales, producers are cutting down on their production of 3.2 beer as demand sinks, making the product harder to obtain, Dawood said.

The council was unanimous in its vote to lift the penalties in exchange for the store agreeing to no longer sell alcohol. If the city ensures the store no longer sells alcohol, “then we’ve accomplished what we want to, which is not having a licensee that isn’t able to control the sales,” Councilmember Kevin Staunton said.

“That’s a good analysis,” Mayor Jim Hovland said. “I think I’d be comfortable with that notion as well.”

The police department checks establishments for underage alcohol sales on random dates twice per year. For each check, an undercover, underaged customer is paired with a plain-clothed officer, Edina Lt. Dan Conboy told the council. The proprietors are notified three weeks to two months before the compliance checks are set to occur, Conboy noted.

The two other violators considered by the council June 18 did not have representatives speak at their respective public hearings. Smashburger and Buffalo Wild Wings, both located at Southdale Center, were each fined $1,000 and had their liquor licenses suspended for three days. It was both locations’ second underaged alcohol sales offense within 24 months.

The suspensions were to take effect June 24-26, avoiding weekend dates.

“We chose those days just to make it less impactful to their sales,” Edina City Clerk Sharon Allison explained.

– Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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