Jasper liquor license hearing draws a crowd

Update- Council approves ordinance amendment

About 50 people attended a public hearing held by the Jasper City Council on Jan. 9 at Memorial Hall to take comments on potentially amending or removing a city ordinance that prohibits the granting of a liquor license for any building within 100 feet of a church. The potential change in the ordinance was brought about by Kyley Mills’ plans to relocate the Stonewall Bar & Grill from its location at 115 Wall St. W. across the street to the building at 106 Wall St. W., which is right next to Jasper Baptist Church.

About 20 people spoke during the hearing with those in favor of changing the ordinance outnumbering those against.

Some of those who spoke in support of changing the ordinance said the current location is not viable long-term and expressed concern that if Mills isn’t allowed to move the bar to the property at 106 Wall St. W., which she bought at auction in October, the bar might close. Several people said that with few businesses in town already, the city couldn’t afford to lose the bar.

“We need that bar,” said Julie Meyer, who works at the bar. “We need that business. People are going to leave. I am going to leave if I lose my job. I’ll sell my house. I’m out of here because that’s what’s keeping me here. I have no family here anymore. Working for Kyley is my life. Working for the people of Jasper is my life. Without that, I’m gone. You’ll have another empty house, another empty building.”
Lions Club member Jerry Tower said that the closure of the bar could cut off funding the Jasper Lions receive from pull tabs that it uses to benefit the community.

“The Lions Club does a lot and if we lose the liquor store, the Lions Club will probably be closed up,” he said.

Other supporters of the bar said they thought it was needed as a place to gather and socialize, that it generates tax revenue for the city, and that it provides a place to eat. Mills said previously that she plans to expand the food options if she moves the bar across the street by putting in a full kitchen.

Others pointed out that the bar is already across the street — 108 feet and one half inch away — from the church, according to Mayor Les Nath — and questioned what difference moving it across the street would make.

Those who spoke against changing the ordinance said they were concerned about the potential noise and safety impact on the apartments next to the building at 106 Wall St. W. as well as the potential safety impact on the church. Some spoke of the negative impacts of alcohol and others said there were more important things to consider than tax revenue.

“It’s not all about money either,” said Michelle Johnson. “It’s about people.”

Others said they thought it was ethically and morally wrong to have a bar next to a church.

“It’s sad when people stand up for a business versus a church,” said Amy Yeager, wife of Ken Yeager, the pastor at Jasper Baptist Church.
Some of those who spoke against changing the ordinance said they were not opposed to Mills or the bar, but just opposed to having the bar next to the church. Likewise, some of those who supported changing the ordinance said they had nothing against the church, but thought that moving the bar would be good for the community.

The hearing lasted about an hour. Nath said after the hearing that he hoped to have the topic on the agenda for the council’s Jan. 16 meeting, which was after the publication deadline of the printed issue of the Pipestone County Star.

Update — The Jasper City Council during its Jan. 16 meeting approved an amendment to its liquor licensing ordinance, clearing the way for Mills to move the Stonewall Bar & Grill to the property at 106 Wall St. W. For more details about the council’s action and the ordinance amendment, see next week’s Pipestone County Star.