Rhinelander liquor ordinance back on council agenda
BY NAOMI KOWLES
For the Star Journal
Rhinelander will be reviewing its liquor laws once again this year after an issue regarding “beer caves” was raised at last week’s public safety meeting.
Becky Marheine, manager of Rhinelander’s Holiday Gas Station, explained to the committee that the single-entrance, single-exit walled cave prescribed by ordinance directly contributed to high rates of theft for single 24-ounce beer cans.
While she noted the store had camera monitors, she explained that cashiers could not monitor the security footage while also doing their jobs once a customer entered the beer cave. While the access doors are very visible, she explained, there was no way to keep an eye on the internal cave.
One solution she suggested was a change in the ordinance that would allow them to install a door that opens from the outside of the cave, similar to doors that are used to access soda and other drinks.
Council member David Holt took the view that the ordinance had “tied the hands” of businesses needing to make decisions regarding the structure of their merchandise.
“These are the hazards of micromanaging a policy like this,” he noted. “Whatever we need to do to facilitate that in my mind is the path we need to take.”
Public safety committee chairperson Steve Sauer explained that the ordinance language had originally been created to protect businesses from liquor theft, resulting in an ordinance he called counter-intuitive.
“We have created a den to steal, it seems,” he said.
Mayor Chris Frederickson reminded the committee that any revisions to the law needed to also consider the original intent behind the current ordinance language.
The committee voted to send the issue to city attorney Carrie Miljevich to bring back a revised ordinance draft at the next public safety meeting.
The Rhinelander city council passed an ordinance change to its liquor laws in July, which now allows stores to merchandise wine and beer at secondary locations inside a licensed premise. Previously, all liquor had to be stored inside of a designated enclosed area within a Class A licensed store.