Small town struggles with the ‘alcohol economy’

West Concord, Minn., has a full-time bartender and a part-time librarian.

There’s a message there somewhere. The tiny town — population: 786 — has been trying to figure out what to do with its municipal liquor store, which is losing money.

The town council has decided to wait until spring to decide what to do. The bottom line is “bottom’s up!”

“Sales have been good for the last three months,” city administrator Kay Hanson tells the Rochester Post Bulletin. “We’ve implemented some positive things that benefit the historical society in town, some additional promotions … we’ve seen positive support from the community.”

The town has bailed out the store with $25,000 in the last month or so. Now it’s up to the townspeople. Either drink more or lose one of the few businesses left in town.

The townspeople aren’t all that concerned, judging by the 18 people who showed up at last month’s meeting on the subject, a meeting triggered by a state law requiring a public meeting when a municipal liquor store loses money.

“Minnesota’s system of municipal liquor stores is not its biggest problem,” the Star Tribune’s Patricia Lopez opined last month. “But it clashes with a culture that prizes private enterprise and that should take seriously government’s role as regulator.”