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SB 156 Helps Growing Towns Add Liquor Licenses

Here’s a clever trick: Senate Bill 156, signed by Governor Kristi Noem yesterday in a basket she labeled “Good Government” bills, may allow South Dakota towns to issue more liquor licenses.

State law allows municipalities to issue liquor licenses based on population. Every municipality with population of 1,000 or less gets to issue up to three liquor licenses. Bigger towns get to issue one more license for every additional 1,500 people or fraction of that figure beyond that first thousand. So, for example, Madison, with 6,191 residents counted in the 2020 Census, should get seven licenses: three for the first thousand people, then four more, since the 5,191 people beyond the first thousand include three full chunks of 1,500 and one more fraction.

But current law has a counting quirk: while the law looks at the actual Census count in decennial years, it revises the standard every two years and bases the license allowance on 90% of the even-year Census population estimate.

Consider the mathematical implications of that restriction: suppose Tru Shrimp wins the lottery, turns Lake Madison into a shrimp farm, and Forrest and Bubba and Lt. Dan bring their aquacultural expertise and several hundred interested workers to Madison for chitinous opportunity. The Census head-guess for 2024 says Madison has 7,700 residents. (Fat chance! cries Rep. Randy Gross, who can’t imagine why anyone would want to work in Madison, but roll with me, for the sake of illustration.) A straight calculation from that 7,700 should allow Madison eight liquor licenses. But the 90% rule cuts that even-year estimate to 6,930 and leaves the maximum booze license figure at seven.

Senator David Wheeler (R-22/Huron) said boo to that and wrote SB 156 to strike the 90% rule. Starting July 1, we use the full population, where it’s the actual decennial Census count or the even-year estimate.

A glance at the 2020 population figures tells me that Brookings is just 124 people away from getting one more license; the 90% rule would delay an increase for Brookings until the town grows by 2,461. Senator Wheeler’s Huron needs just 238 more turkey pluckers to add another liquor license to its cap, whereas under current law, they’d get no more sellers until 1,664 more people move in. SB 156 lowers Brandon’s level-up point from 1,557 new residents to 453; Harrisburg’s level-up pop gain drops from 942 to 269. And Dell Rapids, with an official 2020 population of 3,996, needs just five more residents to win one more license, versus the 404 the 90% rule would require.

Nobody testified against SB 156. South Dakota Retailers, the Beverage and Gaming group, and the Municipal League lobbied for it. The only nay to this subtle increase in alcohol availability came from Representative Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls). Perhaps as the Republican primary challenger, gubernatorial candidate Haugaard will want to expand on why he felt this small acceleration in liquor licenses for growing towns doesn’t really fit with “good government.”


  1. larry kurtz 2022-03-17 09:37

    South Dakota is rife with sobriety checkpoints, racial profiling makes I-90 a civil rights black hole and police just recently were stopped from forcing catheters into the urethras of the accused. Mrs. Noem’s concessions to liquor distributors, funeral directors and the prison industry are simply payouts to her donors: it’s just that simple.

  2. Arlo Blundt 2022-03-17 12:50

    Just what we need…more liquor stores and bars…we sell liquor just about everywhere now. I haven’t noticed a problem with access to liquor.

  3. Nix 2022-03-17 16:23

    You know why cannabis is the GOP
    Boogeyman and not booze ?
    Ask Gary (burp) Cammack.

  4. Mark Anderson 2022-03-17 17:42

    Well Cory, when we moved to Florida, I thought we were moving to partyland. It turns out we’re were moving from partyland. I guess things don’t change.

  5. jakc 2022-03-17 20:17

    I understand the history, and the financial reality..People who spend a lot of money on a license expect to be able to get their money back. But it is a silly, anti-capitalist system

  6. ABC 2022-03-18 01:59

    Ripoff Party wants more booze sold (by its minority Republican fascisti !) but makes recreational and medical-compassionate weed
    illegal or harder to get!

    Throw them out in June and November !! South Dakota is now a Democratic-Libertarian-Independent State !!!!

    Signature requirements for running as a Libertarian in some Districts (House or Senate) has DOUBLED from 1 signature to 2 signatures? Why the change from 2020? A new method of counting ?

    As Democrats, as Libertarians, as Independents, we will UNITED form a new Government! The days of ideology are gone.
    Build new, Build now! (Building better than complaining).

  7. All Mammal 2022-03-18 12:44

    ABC- still working in it. And have actually been able to reach my goal several times of convincing older, white, Harley grease-stained, men to state, Black Lives Matter! It started out as a challenge, but now it has become a pathway to spread enlightenment.
    Finding logical baby steps to flip trump-bums is proving way more difficult because the “fake news can’t be trusted.” Which is like banging my head against a fence post. I have been gathering images of their masters making statements from their own lips to use as artifacts that cannot be disputed. Im getting there with several individuals who start out seeing me as one of them… then slowly and gently I start to feed them little bites of truth. And let them discover for themselves that to be a good person, one must conclude: gee, I guess they do matter and we should care when they get murdered by police. And: huh, I suppose trump and noem et al. are racist thieves robbing me of my freedom. Still have a long way to go but ain’t nothin but a step to a stepper!
    I am still hesitant to officially change my voter card to Republican to vote in primary. Not sure that will be so easy to switch back. Independents should have the right to vote in primaries.

  8. M 2022-03-18 15:39

    We have 5 bars on our Main Street for a population of 3200 people but no store that sells women’s clothing. We drive 100 miles to Aberdeen to go to Kohl’s. My neighbor who boozes downtown said I should shop at Runnings but you know not all women like flannel year round. Can’t do too much ordering online because I have to try every piece of clothing on. Last week I bought small, medium, xtra medium, and large. I’m five two and weigh 110 pounds. Do men have this problem?

    I quit drinking almost eight years ago and notice more and more boozers here. Add in tourism, fishing tournaments and who cares about women’s clothing…..get more liquor licenses.

  9. leslie 2022-03-18 23:19

    Alcohol is an addictive product so sellers have a captured market.

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