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BRAINERD CITY COUNCIL: Social host ordinance passed on 5-2 vote

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BRAINERD CITY COUNCIL: Social host ordinance passed on 5-2 vote
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Not only is underage drinking a misdemeanor crime, but allowing underage drinking to take place at your home or on your property could result in a misdemeanor charge. 


The Brainerd City Council with a 5-2 vote on Monday adopted a social host ordinance, aimed at curbing underage drinking parties. Voting against were council members Mary Koep and Bob Olson.

The ordinance makes it unlawful for anyone to allow an event or gathering at a residence or other premises when the person knows that there will be underage drinking or underage possession of alcohol. 

The key words of the ordinance, Brainerd Police Deputy Chief Mike Bestul said, are “knowingly allows.” He said the ordinance is not set up to go after parents, unless they allow their kids to have underage drinking parties in their homes. He said officers would use their discretion in each case. 

The ordinance mirrors those in place in Baxter and Cass County, Police Chief Corky McQuiston told the council on Monday. 

McQuiston said the idea of the ordinance was to combat 18-, 19-, or 20-year-olds from congregating for a party. 

“What ends up happening is we have a difficult time establishing who provided the alcoholic beverages,” McQuiston said. “The challenge is we don’t always get cooperation from the people at parties. This is another tool for us to use.”

Doug Kern, a property owner who spoke during the public hearing before the ordinance was adopted, said he was concerned about being held liable when one of his tenants who is under 21 holds an underage drinking party. McQuiston said since Kern wasn’t permitting the underage drinking and the tenant was, the tenant would be liable.

Roger Lynn, executive director of Youth Wellness initiative, said alcohol abuse is one of the challenges youths face. Council member Lucy Nesheim said if there are more steps the city can take to reduce underage drinking, it should. Council member Kelly Bevans said the ordinance was well written, and if people want to contest a citation they can do so in court. 

Olson said there are already laws prohibiting underage drinking and supplying alcohol to those underage. Koep said her concern was that the ordinance would lead to people being wrongly charged. She said the ordinance automatically assumes someone is guilty.

The ordinance doesn’t apply to conduct solely between an underage person and his or her parents, legally protected religious observances, to establishments holding intoxicating liquor or 3.2 malt liquor licenses or to such establishments that employ underage persons. 

In other action, the council:

Heard presentations from Steve Christensen of Ascencus, and Crow Wing County Emergency Management Director John Bowen. 

Received an update from John Gunstad, Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp., on the downtown rehabilitation program. He noted applications will be taken until June 15 for grants of up to $40,000 on a first come, first serve basis. About $88,000 is available, he said. 

Approved by a 6-1 vote paving and storm sewer work for the alley behind the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center. Bevans voted against.

Denied a request by BNSF Railway for the vacation of a platted but unbuilt portion of Front Street based on the withdrawal of a conditional use permit request from Crow Wing Recycling. 

Crow Wing Recycling had wanted to use a rail spur on BNSF Railway property to load scrap material into train cars for transport, but owner Grant VanWyngeeren dropped his request for a conditional use permit because, as he said in an email, it seemed to him that the council would not support his request. 

“...because why would they want to support one of the few growing businesses in Brainerd,” VanWyngeeren wrote in an email to City Planner Mark Ostgarden regarding the withdrawal of his request. 

Council member Bonnie Cumberland, said the council has talked about the need of marketing itself, attracting businesses and supporting business and VanWyngeeren’s email had concerned her because the situation could have been handled differently. 

“I’m simply raising a precaution,” Cumberland said. “We have to be careful how handle people if we want to keep them in town or attract new businesses.”

Heard from Robert Booth, a rural Brainerd resident, during the public forum portion of the agenda. Booth said while at the Veterans Administration Hospital in St. Cloud he met a representative with Sherwin-Williams paint company, who said his company would donate paint for the vintage Marine jet in front of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. 

“This is very helpful and I’ll pass it along,” said council member Kevin Goedker, who also is the council liaison to the airport commission. “Finally, some good news about the airport.”

Also heard from resident Sharia Merten during the public forum portion of Monday’s agenda. Merten requested the city ordinance regarding pets be amended to allow for constrictor snakes. Council members and staff agreed to work with Merten on possibly amending the ordinance. 

Authorized staff to seek a COPS Hiring Program Grant, which if received would pay for three years of salary and benefits for a police officer with a requirement that the city fund a fourth year. It was noted the police department is down five officers and two more retirements were expected in the next coupe of years. 

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.