Bismarck is moving toward using estimated census numbers, rather than actual, to determine the number of Class D and E liquor licenses available, with one up for grabs for every 2,500 people.

The actual census is taken every 10 years while estimates are released annually, in July.

On Tuesday, the city commission authorized staff to draft language to update the liquor license ordinance to reflect the change.

“If we change to the estimated census, we would gain … probably at least four new licenses,” said City Attorney Jannelle Combs, noting Bismarck’s population in 2010 − the last census − was about 62,000 compared to the current estimate of 72,000.

Commissioner Shawn Oban says he feels using estimated census numbers would allow for more competition.

“I think if there’s an appetite for increasing competition and allowing more folks to get into the game, we'd be doing that by using estimated (census numbers),” he said.

When to let bids would be decided by the commission; Combs recommends doing so only when there’s a demand for a license.

The city's also working on offering liquor licenses to assisted living facilities.

No other progress was made in Bismarck’s effort to streamline its liquor license ordinance. The commission plans to take final action in May.

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(Reach Cheryl McCormack at 701-250-8264 or cheryl.mccormack@bismarcktribune.com.)​