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CROW WING COUNTY BOARD: Commissioners express frustration with shutdown

In a lake rich environment with an economy fueled by tourism, Crow Wing County commissioners Tuesday urged the DNR to go public with its position on fishing licenses during the government shutdown.

Additionally, the board noted area businesses — particularly one existing bar/restaurant establishment and two new facilities with familiar names — aren’t able to operate because of the shutdown and the state’s role in liquor licenses. 

Tuesday, the county board passed a resolution seeking greater public notice of what the DNR has told individual callers including County Attorney Don Ryan — that non-licensed anglers will be allowed to fish on the honor system and may obtain an after-the-fact license when the state shutdown ends. 

County Board Chairman Paul Thiede, issued a news release on the subject last week saying he felt he couldn’t wait for the regular board meeting after hearing  concerns from area resorts. Thiede said he received a call from an Iowa resident wondering if they would be able to fish if they made the trip. 

Thiede said he also heard of another out-of-state traveler who was going to cancel a trip to the Whitefish Chain until he learned he could fish. 

Commissioners noted the negative economic impact to the lakes area if visitors cancel trips because they don’t believe they’ll be able to fish. Thiede said the resorters he talked to warned their early July guests to get a fishing license early, but hadn’t done that for later guests with the unknown of how long the shutdown would last. 

In his motion, Thiede urged the DNR to use available emergency resources to let the public know — residents and visitors alike — anglers are being given this leeway in order to avoid vacation cancellations. Thiede said the state could put that information on its website. 

Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom said she was frustrated by the issue and lack of access to state websites across the board. 

“I’d just like to choke somebody, not at this table but someplace,” Nystrom said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Nystrom said it was infuriating state officials were willing to say visitors could fish without a license on the honor system and get one later but wouldn’t come out with a statement to that effect. 

Regarding the liquor licenses, three businesses in the county’s area of authority — namely Unorganized Territory and from townships — are being affected by the state shutdown. The township has to agree to a liquor license but doesn’t have the authority to issue it. The county provides the necessary background checks and then is able to approve or deny a liquor license as long as the establishment be it a club or restaurant sells an appropriate amount of food. The state then has the final authority. 

The county reported in the case of two bar/restaurants  opening along Highway 371 near Brainerd International Raceway — Matty’s and Villella’s Bada Bing — the state shutdown meant state Department of Health inspectors weren’t able to do the inspections to allow the businesses to open. And for an existing business, Black Dog & Grill near Crosby, the state shutdown means it cannot sell liquor because its license renewal wasn’t completed in time to beat the shutdown date on July 1. 

In addition, Thiede noted on-sale or Sunday liquor establishments need a $20 buyers card application to buy liquor from wholesalers. Those cards, apparently renewed on a rotating basis, expired June 30. Thiede said establishments without the buyers card won’t be able to buy from a wholesaler if they run out of liquor. 

And Thiede noted a beaver dam, which is putting Lake Ossawinnamakee — with known invasive species — at risk of overflowing into Pelican Lake, will have to dealt with by the county. 

Nystrom said: “As the state steps backward, it’s incumbent upon us to take as many steps forward as we can take.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.