consultants are sandburs

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The dustup in Nowthen between the city officials and the winery, over winery events and scope of a business permit.

This post is here because of noticing an ABC Newspapers Letter, authored by a friend, Laurie Olmon (this link, search "Goose Lake" on the page to find the item). For reporting providing a context, Strib, here, Shannon Prather writing.

(Coincidently, please pardon the digression, but Prather also has written recently of East Bethel about to impose a good honest straightforward levy-based tax increase without any franchise fee mischief/nonsense, at least as reporting goes for this dance. Worth a look, " ... bond payments coming due," but keep to the main thread of this post for now please. Of all things, the contention appears to be the prior council hamstrung the present one, etc. Met Council, of all things, mentioned. This quote within the item, "Unfortunately, this just serves a very small area,” Davis said. “It’s a mile and a half along 65. It doesn’t serve a residential area. It serves a commercial area.”)

Back to the winery situation. From Prather's report, Strib's headlining italicized:

Nowthen winery faces showdown with city over hosted events
By: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune - Updated: Feb. 12, 2013 - 4:09 PM
Someone noticed that the family business was sponsoring events that the city of Nowthen claims violate their special-use permit.

Relying on her family's roots in winemaking and her own background in horticulture, [Cindy] Ohman transformed a cornfield in the city of Nowthen into acres of grapevines, fruit trees and berry bushes, and she opened Anoka County's first winery in 2004.

Today, Goose Lake Farm & Winery offers visitors nearly 50 varieties of wines. It has become a destination for wine tastings, a seasonal artisan and farmers market, and a site for intimate weddings and other summer gatherings.

But the Ohmans now face a showdown with the city, which says the winemakers have violated the terms of their conditional-use permit. The city attorney contends that the Ohmans are allowed to sell wine, and that's it -- that all the events, including weddings, seasonal markets and harvest celebrations, are violations of their permit.

The city is demanding that the Ohmans apply for an additional permit that outlines the winery's seasonal events and go through another public hearing.

After several terse exchanges and fearful that the city is overreaching, the Ohmans have hired an attorney. Ohman said that the city doesn't understand Minnesota's emerging winery business and that it is punishing Goose Lake for simply marketing and selling wine. She said creative tasting events are critical to sales because many wine connoisseurs are unfamiliar with Minnesota wines.

"This is about the experience. You can taste and shop and walk around the farm," Ohman said. "You will see that's what wineries are doing. We are not a liquor store."

Nowthen Mayor Bill Schulz is complimentary of the winery. He acknowledges that he's attended a dinner and tasting event there. But the bottom line, he says, is that the Ohmans need to comply with the ordinance, which requires more permitting and a public hearing.

Note: ABC Newspapers online letter writer, Laurie Olmon, is a separate person from Cindy Ohmon in the reporting. My understanding being Laurie has no personal stake in the winery's marketing effort, and that there is a name coincidence without kinship. I presume Laurie would have disclosed if kinship was at all at play.

WOW! Officiousness vs. private sector initiative, the stuff of which a seven to ten thousand page Ayn Rand novel could be tediously written.

It appears this thing is more a groundless spite fight than a need for some minor incremental town revenue. If that, it sucks. "Stick to real town business, please," seems the best advice for town officials at this point. Yet I keep an open mind and any advocate of the Nowthen town's position can write and submit a counterpoint post, which I would be willing to publish, here at Crabgrass.

Further links of interest: Here, here, here and here. I have never been to this particular site's tastings and farmers markets, and I dislike sweet wines preferring red cabs and such, but I understand the genre and note the farmers market thing has been embraced by Ramsey officials as a Town Center thing of merit (among the few and far between).

Even a village idiot, these days, must understand that wine tastings are an integral part of winery marketing, nationwide, with this marketing effort in Nowthen being no different from longer running more established practices I knew in past decades while living in Washington State, which has a thriving wine agri-industry.

Why in the world are those Nowthen politicians being so foolishly anti-business? It defies logic.

They must be taking stupidness pills. Over time. On a regular basis.

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