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Jon Godfread, Published May 22 2013

Letter: Fargo’s antiquated liquor laws stifle free market competition

Costco wasn’t denied the opportunity to enter into the Fargo market when similar retailers like Sam’s Club were already operating. Fast food chain locations do not appear to be restricted by proximity. Yet, the Fargo City Commission last week voted to block Cash Wise Liquor from moving its store to a new location in south Fargo on the grounds that it was too close to another off-sale liquor store.

This is a prime example of a fence being built to protect one individual business over another. And while this is not something new in North Dakota, it is something that should certainly be changed.

Government should not be allowed to pick business winners and losers. That role should rightly be left to the consumers, who can vote with their pocketbooks. Free enterprise means allowing more choices and more competition to enter a market, which is a good thing for the consumer. Competition is always good for the consumer because it encourages competitive pricing and variety of goods.

Cash Wise met all requirements necessary for approval of its license except one: “proximity” to other liquor stores. Coborn’s (Cash Wise’s parent company) owns the tract of land, wants to operate a legal business on the premises, and the only thing standing in the way is the fact that another business operating in the same sector is too close. How close is too close? That answer doesn’t exist. The Fargo City Commission is left to make that subjective decision on a case-by-case basis, and that is not a way to operate a business-friendly community.

We at the Greater North Dakota Chamber are champions for free enterprise and we urge the Fargo City Commission to revamp its antiquated liquor license laws and let the market function. The role of government is to foster an environment where individuals can create their own prosperity through the means of competition, not to make those decisions for us.

Godfread, Bismarck, is vice president for governmental affairs,

Greater North Dakota Chamber.