Council Wants Liquor Licenses Issued To Downtown Businesses
Casper City Council informally agreed Tuesday to issue a new liquor license to a business that would locate in downtown or the Old Yellowstone District.
The Wyoming Department of Revenue's liquor division granted a new retail liquor license and a new bar and grill license to the city after the 2015 mid-decade census evaluation showed an increase in the city's population.
City Council awarded the bar and grill license to Marco's Coal Fired Pizza at 319 W. Midwest in September, and has been receiving requests from other businesses for the retail liquor license.
A primary goal of council is to develop the city's core, but few incentives exist to foster that development.
Assigning a liquor license is one of them, City Attorney Bill Luben told council during a work session. "The idea is to use it as an economic development tool."
The state, several council members said, put itself in a bind years ago with the way it issues liquor licenses because their limited supply leads to an inevitable hike in their value.
When the city receives a liquor license, it can sell it only for $1,500. But the buyer then has a gold mine in that piece of paper because they can resell it for much more.
But the city has some clout here in where it goes, Mayor Daniel Sandoval said.
"So to try and get some economic development out of that huge discrepancy between eventual price (rise) is tied to location," Sandoval said.
This is a rare power for the city, he said.
"So if we tie it to the downtown area or any other particular location in the future, it keeps it from just immediately becoming a $1,500 stipend that turns into a quarter-million overnight, Sandoval said. "So we're trying to take out that incentive to just use a liquor license as a get rich quick scheme."
Council member Wayne Heili disagreed with the idea of tying a license to a location, saying the city should be open to all applications because a business may have a good idea or fostering a business besides downtown.
Council members Charlie Powell and Bob Hopkins said they were among those who crafted the goal of downtown development, and the city should stay with that plan.
Powell added a business owner puts in a lot of work to file an application, and it would be unfair to the owner to find out later that council had a bias to award the license to a downtown merchant.