Biz Buzz: Prairie Bay seeks off-sale liquor license

'We thought we could produce something similar here but built around local flavors and using local products and picked up at our Baxter location,' Nick Miller, 3 Cheers Hospitality.

Prairie Bay Grill and Catering in Baxter is looking to add the ability to sell bottles of wine and six-packs of beer with food orders in a venture into selling prepackaged meals that customers would make at home. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — Prairie Bay Grill and Catering requested an amendment to the Baxter’s city code to allow a combination of an on-sale and off-sale liquor license at its Baxter restaurant.

It was a subject that came before the city previously. But, as everyone knows, these are different times. And the discussion at Baxter City Council — through an electronic meeting Tuesday, April 7 — reflected the changed nature of work, life and business.

Prairie Bay has an on-sale liquor license and one for Sunday.

Tuesday, Prairie Bay asked the city to allow an off-sale liquor license, allowing the restaurant to sell bottles of wine or six-packs of beer as people purchase food from its carry-out or curbside service.

Council member Todd Holman said he supported the request as did Council member Mark Cross, who echoed comments by Mayor Darrel Olson of being in uncharted waters with the coronavirus pandemic.


The state closed dining in restaurants, along with other options where people may gather in groups or have close proximity, as a way to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the coronavirus. Businesses have been creative in looking at ways to connect with a public that is sheltering in place. For restaurants, the curbside, carryout and no contact deliveries are now the norm. In a letter to the city, Nick Miller, an owner of 3 Cheers Hospitality, which owns Prairie Bay among other eateries, said, “In an effort to grow and give our customers new options, we are to create a new profit center for our restaurant. There are two emerging markets that we are interested in getting into. Grab and go foods are becoming more and more popular, especially when combined with online ordering.”

Miller stated Prairie Bay is looking to broaden its selections and noted Blue Apron, a service that provides packaged meals that are shipped to consumers with all the ingredients and with instructions for cooking and preparation.

“We thought we could produce something similar here, but built around local flavors and using local products and picked up at our Baxter location,” Miller stated. A good meal needs a good bottle of wine, Miller stated.

“In order for this to be a success, we want to offer our customers the most convenient, complete experience we can,” Miller stated, adding being able to offer a bottle of wine to go when the meal is picked up would be a game-changer.

Cross asked if someone could then order wine and pick it up curbside, but Kelly Steele, assistant city administrator, said the combination ordinance would be issued to a restaurant and only allowed with a food order.

Council members Connie Lyscio and Zach Tabatt said they were in favor of that and approving it with those conditions. Lyscio noted the city should do what it can to help businesses.

Jim Exsted, Baxter Police chief, was asked if he had any concerns. Excited said as long as the wine or beer was in a sealed container with the food delivery, there wouldn’t be any violation of the open bottle law.

Olson said in the past the question was whether this would cut into other livelihoods, such as the liquor stores selling wine, but he also noted this scenario for food purchases makes it a different option. Olson also wondered about approving the motion immediately at the Tuesday meeting, meaning Prairie Bay could start immediately, without allowing a 10 day period and allowing others to go through the normal process.


But Olson said in this situation 10 days may be too long.

The council approved the motion. The request was temporary and Brad Chapulis, city administrator, noted the council then would be able to review it at a later date.

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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