BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- A spirited debate is underway over whether a large wine super store should open in Bloomington.
Located off of 494, next to Trader Joe's, the Total Wine & More sign is up with a message on the door reading "opening soon. But now the store's Minnesota debut has been delayed until spring.
The wine superstore has 100 stores in 15 states and considers itself the largest private retailer in the country. It was slated to open in December 2013, but the store's liquor license was put on hold after the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association provided the City of Bloomington with copies of the company's legal matters in other states. The cases involved state liquor laws and competitors.
"It is a physical barrier to the opening of the store right now," said Sandra Johnson, Bloomington City Attorney, pointing to a stack of cases. "What it did raise were legitimate questions about Total Wine's suitability for a liquor license in the state of Minnesota. It is somewhat unusual, if you look at our local state businesses, I don't think you would find individual files of any significance whatsoever."
Johnson says the city council will delay approving a liquor license until the company shows it will comply, and Total Wine's rebuttal isn't expected until April.
"We want to make sure we are not overlooking something because if you grant a license. It's very difficult to revoke it, much more difficult to simply say you don't get a license," said Johnson.
Total Wine & More has never been declined a liquor license, according to Edward Cooper, the company's Vice President of Public Affairs.
"We are always 100 percent in accordance with all applicable laws. We are good responsible retailers whose potential competitors don't want to compete so they are trying to keep us out. Because of that, the customer loses," said Cooper.
He pointed out Total Wine & More has been recently approved to open a store in Roseville, which should open by spring. Cooper also emphasized the company is "the best in the business" when preventing sales to minors, with incentive bonuses for employees who undergo extensive training to prevent underage sales.
Wine superstores are increasing trend in Minnesota. Haskell's just opened up a 20,000 square foot store in Maple Grove last month. The owners call the concept a hit already. Haskell's President Ted Farrell says he welcomes any friendly competition into the marketplace as long as the stores abide by state law.
"Clearly there are some folks nervous about competition," said Cooper. "We on the other hand embrace competition. Competition is always good and the consumers always win and that's what we are all about."
Johnson said Total Wine & More asked the council for an extension to provide an adequate response by April 21. She said a hearing could go before an administrative law judge, and the process could extend the opening of the store to May or June.
KARE 11 did not receive a response from the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association in time for deadline.