Custer's last liquor stand to close

From The Wall Street Journal

CUSTER, SD -- Citizens of this small Black Hills city voted 349-218 Tuesday to terminate the municipal ownership of the Custer Liquor package store, ending an era of public entrepreneurship here dating back to the 1890s.

The store, which operated at the same location on Custer's main thoroughfare since the early 1960s, likely will close before the end of November, one city official said.

"The determination of when to close is up to the city council," said Rex Harris, city administrator.

The fate of more than $850,000 in accumulated store profits, the so-called "liquor fund," has also to be determined by the council. It was that asset -- and Custer's plan to build a new, much larger, retail outlet for beer, wine and distilled spirits -- that caused a stir in the city of 1,800 residents last year. The matter was settled in a ballot issue the same day South Dakota held its statewide primary.

"I was disappointed," said Kim Conwell, one of two full-time employees at the store. She said she hoped to remain on the city's payroll in some other capacity. The store's manager, who also doubles as Custer's parks director, will remain employed by the city.

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