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Heidi Shaffer, Published October 03 2010

No chardonnay with cut and color

For 28 years, Nancy Rheault served her salon clients a complimentary glass of wine with a haircut or pedicure, but a notification this summer from the Fargo Police Department put a stopper in the practice.

After the city received a complaint about salons serving alcohol, police contacted owners to notify them that it’s illegal to serve wine, even if it’s complimentary, without a proper liquor license.

A letter from Police Chief Keith Ternes went out in August, ordering salons to immediately cease serving alcohol.

Police wanted to address the issue with education for owners rather than issue any citations, Ternes said in the letter.

“However, any future violations identified by the police department may result in criminal sanctions,” he said.

Rheault, owner of south Fargo’s Rheault & Friends Salon and Spa, said it was a popular practice for local salons to either provide wine or allow clients to bring in their own alcohol but didn’t realize it was an illegal practice.

“Our clients are very sad and want us to be able to (serve wine), but we can’t go against the law,” she said.

Police contacted at least 12 salons by phone before sending out the letter, and three businesses admitted to serving alcohol, Sgt. Mat Sanders said.

“As far as I know, everybody has complied with that (letter),” said City Auditor Steve Sprague, who handles Fargo’s liquor licenses.

Serving liquor without a license is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail or up to a $1,000 fine, Sanders said.

Salon owners can apply for a beer and wine liquor license, which requires half of sales come from food.

Jane Welte-Fugere, owner of Fargo’s Hair Success, said she is interested in a license but said a salon would have a difficult time meeting the food requirement.

“It comes down to the specific percentage of food to wine,” she said. “If you’re not making it, then you’ve wasted all that money on a license because they’re going to take it away.”

Other salon owners said the amount of customer demand probably doesn’t make it worth pursuing a license.

“I don’t really get that many calls for it unless it’s for a wedding,” said Sonja Myhre, owner of SJ Hair Studio in downtown Fargo.

Sue Coty, general manager of M.J. Capelli, said she is unaware of any requests from customers. Because the business is a family salon, Coty said she wouldn’t even consider an alcohol license.

Downtown Fargo’s Nail Bar is the only salon in the city with a liquor license. The business opened in May and was granted a liquor license that allows them to sell beer and wine.

Similar laws for liquor licenses apply in Moorhead and West Fargo, and neither city has any salons with alcohol licenses.

A proposal to create a special license for salons came before Fargo’s Liquor Control Board a few years ago but was declined largely because members questioned where to draw the line on making exceptions for certain kinds of businesses, Sprague said.

To obtain a liquor license, a business pays a $250 application fee, which covers a background check.

Businesses without a bar, such as salons, can obtain a license that allows for the sale of beer and/or wine, with initial fees ranging from $800 to $1,800 and a further annual fee of $300 to $700.

Fargo hasn’t received any applications from salons for liquor licenses following the letter sent by police, Sprague said.

“We would love to be able to do whatever we can for our guest, but we do have to stay within the law,” Welte-Fugere said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511