KALISPELL (AP) - Seven individuals have applied for separate liquor licenses to run what they say will be a wine college outside the city limits here.
But some state and local regulators say they're skeptical of the applicants' motives, and believe they may simply be trying to take advantage of a loophole that could allow them to resell the liquor licenses later at an incredible profit.
Liquor licenses sold in Flathead County outside of a five-mile radius of the city limits cost only about $600. But within the five-mile radius of Kalispell, liquor licenses have been resold for $350,000 to $400,000 because the number permitted by the state is tightly controlled.
The site of the proposed wine college is just over five miles outside of the city's western limits, but on an edge of town that is growing rapidly and where annexation is being considered.
If the city limits are pushed out further through annexation, the site would fall within the five-mile boundary, and owners of liquor licenses would be allowed to put them up for sale for use anywhere within the city.
"It may be legal, but we've got a major problem with the law," said Narda Wilson of the Tri-City Planning Office. "To me, the system is broken."
The state currently is reviewing applications for all seven all-beverage liquor licenses, including one application from the site's current owner, James Glantz.
His attorney, Diane Smith, told the Daily Inter Lake that it was "too soon" in the process to discuss the application.
"We've applied totally within compliance of legal requirements," Smith said.
The state Department of Justice also must review each applicant to make sure they meet all the requirements to hold a liquor license.
In a news release, one of the applicants, Toby Glantz, said the wine college proposal calls for each applicant to operate an establishment seasonally, meeting regulations for size, hours of operations, health and safety.
"Our beginnings will be humble and it is our hope that the public will catch on and support this unique approach to wine education," he wrote.
Jim Glantz is quoted in the news release as saying the establishments would operate "purely for education in a nonsmoking and nongaming atmosphere" and open during daylight hours.
The state is only beginning its review of the license applications, but has already received "a number of protest letters," said Jason Wood of the state Department of Revenue.
At the moment, the only structures on the proposed site are a mobile home, a two-car garage and a large shop. The state would not grant a license until the applicants also meet health and fire codes for a facility.
"There are a whole bunch of hoops that have to be gone through," Wood said.
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