Despite an unusually long, bitterly cold winter - or maybe, in part, because of it - Detroit Lakes visitors and residents alike have indulged in plenty of eating, drinking and making merry so far this year.

Sales at Lakes Liquor, the city's municipal liquor store, showed a 9 percent increase for the first six months (January-June) of 2018, as compared to the same period last year - and data released by the State of Minnesota for the first five months of the year (June's data is not yet available) shows that the city's food and beverage tax revenue is also up five percent from 2017 figures for the same time frame.

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"It's been an excellent year so far," says Randy Buhr, manager of Lakes Liquor. He attributes the increase to a couple of different factors: "We're offering a little better pricing, to give customers a better deal, and we've added lots of new choices this year as well."

Buhr also noted, however, that warmer temperatures are also responsible for some of the boost in sales: May totals for 2018 were up almost 19 percent over the same month last year, and June totals were up almost 11.5 percent.

"Hot weather always makes for a good summer (at the liquor store)," said City Finance Manager Pamela Slifka - but there were also plenty of people out and about during January and February, she added.

"In February, because of the ice palace and Polar Fest, our (food and beverage tax) receipts went up nearly $3,500 - that means people spent about $350,000 more around town that month," she said, adding that the city collects about 1 percent of all money spent at local bars and restaurants each year through the tax.

January food and beverage tax revenue was also up almost 8 percent this year, Slifka added, in large part due to additional traffic from people coming to view the historic Little Detroit Lake Ice Harvest - the first in Detroit Lakes since 1971 - and the subsequent construction of King Isbit's Ice Palace, which took place over the latter half of the month.

In case local residents are thinking the ice harvest and palace construction were a one-time event, however, fear not: The Ice Palace Steering Committee is in the process of formulating a three-year plan to, as committee member Becky Mitchell puts it, "keep the momentum going."

According to a press release from the committee, these plans include "snow and ice adventures in the city park and on the city beach in both 2019 and 2020, with the next ice palace being slated for construction in 2021 - in celebration of both Becker County and the City of Detroit Lakes observing their Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary)."

Once again, the committee needs community volunteers to make it all happen, Mitchell said, so anyone who is interested in getting involved should contact her at the Becker County Museum, 218-847-2938.

Slifka noted that the food and beverage tax has been a significant source of revenue for the City of Detroit Lakes since it was first enacted by the Minnesota Legislature in April of 2011.

"We've raised about $2.7 million from the tax since then," she said.

By state law, there are four things that the city can use this revenue for, Slifka added: Development and expansion of the city's multi-use trail system; the control of aquatic invasive species within city limits; parking improvements near city-owned facilities; and redevelopment of land turned back to the city as a result of the realignment of the Highway 10 corridor through Detroit Lakes.