A bill that would make it easier for people in Wyoming to consume alcohol while doing things like throwing axes, darts and chicken roping is only one step away from reaching Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk.
Senate File 13 would make entertainment-based businesses in Wyoming eligible for a bar and grill liquor license. These businesses now have to compete with other businesses for retail liquor licenses.
“The bar and grill license in the way it is being shaped will have a very positive impact and give communities a lot more flexibility,” said Cody Mayor Matt Hall, who’s also the president of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities.
It also would gradually increase the number of bar and grill liquor licenses allowed in a community.
The proposal has been making steady progress through the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 session so far, having survived committee meetings and receiving approval from both the Senate and House. It now only needs a vote of concurrence in the Senate to head to the governor’s desk.
A New Formula
SF 13 was the result of combining a bill that put higher population-based caps on the number of bar and grill liquor licenses issued and another creating a separate class of liquor licenses for entertainment-based businesses.
The final result in SF 13 incorporates entertainment-based businesses as being eligible for the current bar and grill liquor license and also increases how many of those licenses a community can award in two waves, first in July and the next in 2028.
Cities as large as Cheyenne and as small as Cody say they have often struggled with the bar and grill license, described by some city leaders as too narrow for many businesses to participate in.
The expansion will benefit entertainment-based businesses that provide activities like chicken roping, golf simulators and ax throwing and derive at least 60% of their revenue from food or entertainment.
The expanded license states that 60% of the revenue for license holders could be from the grill or entertainment, or a combination of the two.
‘It’s Really For The Entrepreneurs Out There’
The also bill allows customers to take home one partially consumed bottle of wine provided that the customer has bought a full-course meal and consumed a portion of the wine with that meal. It is clarified in the bill that what qualifies as a full-course meal is any item that is “not convenient to eat while standing or walking.”
April Brimmer Kunz, co-owner of a future indoor golf simulator business in Cheyenne and former president of the Wyoming State Senate, spoke on behalf of expanding the liquor licenses available at multiple committee meetings over the past year.
She also helped organize SF 13 with Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association.
One of the biggest drivers for SF 13 is the influx of new businesses that don’t focus their entire enterprise around the consumption of alcohol.
“It’s really for the entrepreneurs out there,” Hall said.
Kunz’s son JB Kunz, the business’ other co-owner, testified at a committee meeting on the bill last fall and said he doesn’t frequent older bars and taverns in Cheyenne because they never update or renovate to make themselves more entertaining.
“I’d prefer to go somewhere and do something that’s not revolved around just purely drinking,” he said, adding he finds the younger generation more interested in doing activities while imbibing rather than just sitting and drinking. “Wyoming is set up as a free economy and we really need to take a look at the small businesses trying to start up.”
The bill passed through the Senate on Jan. 24 with a 20-8 vote and closed out the week passing the House 38-24.