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Libby City Council poised to allow liquor sales on election days

Editor | October 23, 2020 7:00 AM

After a 44-year prohibition, Libby residents are close to finally being able to buy beer, wine and liquor legally in the city on Election Day.

Libby City Council approved a series of reforms to the municipality’s code pertaining to alcohol sales during its Oct. 19 meeting. Members of the council’s ordinance subcommittee had proposed combining separate sections of the code referring to beer and liquor, condensing the regulations and bringing them up to date.

Among the items tossed out: An ordinance dating back to 1976 that banned the selling, handling and delivering of beer, wine or liquor during an election within city limits. The ordinance clarified that the type of election included biennial, general or primary “at which state, national or local officers are elected, during the hours when the polls are open.”

Otherwise, the sale or distribution of alcohol was forbidden between the hours of 2 and 8 a.m., seven days a week.

City Councilor Peggy Williams said the subcommittee took up the reform effort after Scott Erickson, manager of the Libby location of Rosauers Supermarkets, brought the Election Day restriction to light.

“Not being able to sell alcohol on Election Day, that would affect Rosauers, so we stared from there and realized the ordinance itself was outdated,” Williams said. “It had a lot of enforcement code in it that was not necessary or already included in state code.”

The combined and edited ordinance given a first reading by Libby City Council on Oct. 19 reads like a business license regulation. It provides for licensing applications, fees owed to the city and special permits. Penal provisions are left with the Montana Alcoholic Beverage Control.

“We basically rewrote sections of it and deleted sections of it,” Williams said. “It is a business license application — not an alcohol enforcement — ordinance.”

It’s not clear how the ordinance became law — or if it has ever been enforced. Few residents had any knowledge of the restriction, despite it sitting on the books since the mid-70s. A quick review of The Western News archives from the era did not turn up any leads. Civic leaders in Libby at the time, though, were engrossed with the possible reform of city government. A push to disincorporate the municipality failed at the ballot box that year.

City Councilor Rob Dufficy made the motion to approve the ordinance change with City Councilor Hugh Taylor offering a second. The vote was unanimous. Before Dufficy made the motion, he sought to clarify the language of the rewritten ordinance.

“So by approving this, Rosauers can sell alcohol on Election Day?” he asked.

Williams affirmed his distillation of the changes.

“Thank you, I just wanted to get that down,” Dufficy said to laughter.

Under state code, Libby City Council must post the proposed changes and make copies available to the public. After a period of 12 days, city councilors must vote to approve the changes again.

The makes Libby City Council poised to end the prohibition on Nov. 2, the day before the November election.