Knell, Cathey says Casper may want to reject Spotlight bar and grill requests, Wyoming Downs

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CASPER, Wyo. – At least two members of Casper’s city council are reluctant to award bar and grill licenses to the Spotlight Lounge or the Wyoming Downs.

The town has two bar and grill licenses, and Casper City Council will hear presentations from representatives of the Spotlight Lounge and Wyoming Downs on Tuesday. A third company, Mouthful had previously expressed interest in obtaining one of the available bar and grill licenses, but withdrew its application on Monday.

City manager Carter Napier said in a preparatory meeting on Tuesday that council had three options regarding bar and grill license applications:

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  • Not to issue a bar and grill license
  • Issue a bar and grill license at the Spotlight Lounge or Wyoming Downs
  • Issue a bar and grill license to both companies

Council member Bruce Knell, who had previously said he would rather license the bar and grill to Mouthful and Spotlight Lounge rather than Wyoming Downs, said on Tuesday he believed the council should only license bar and grill at any of the companies.

He said he visited all three businesses last week and felt that all could operate successfully with a restaurant liquor license, which is unlimited at Casper. Bar and grill licenses are limited based on a population formula under state law.

“I’d love to see us save them both,” Knell said of the bar and grill licenses.

He said other companies might be interested in bar and grill licensing with business models that really depend on bar operations, while he believes Spotlight Lounge and Wyoming Downs don’t have really need a bar. Bar and Grill licensing requires a business to have a bar with at least six seats, dedicated bartending staff, and a range of spirits available.

Knell said he had heard a rumor that Chili’s had bought the recently closed IHOP restaurant and that the business would need a bar and grill license. Mayor Steve Freel noted that the former IHOP is located in Evansville, so businesses moving there would not be able to obtain a license from Casper.

Council member Steve Cathey said he agreed with Knell’s reluctance to give the two available bar and grill licenses. He suggested that the board consider filing any decision on whether to issue either license after hearing presentations from Spotlight Lounge and Wyoming Downs on Tuesday. This would allow the board to explore the subject in greater depth at a future working session before making a final decision.

“I kind of hate giving them away now when there might be other things to come,” Cathey said, adding that he thought the Spotlight Lounge and the Wyoming Downs could operate under a liquor license from restaurant.

Municipal licensing specialist Carla Mills-Laatsch told the council the two companies actually want to operate a bar and understand the requirements to do so under a bar and grill license. Wyoming Downs, a company that offers live horse betting and electronic gaming machines, is seeking a bar and grill license for 1121 Wilkins Circle, the former location of Sidelines Bar & Grill. The Spotlight Lounge is seeking a Bar and Grill license for 128 East Second St., the former location of the Downtown Grill & Venue.

At the preparatory meeting, Board member Lisa Engebretsen said she had visited the Spotlight Lounge and was concerned the company might not be able to complete renovations that would bring the space up to standard. building code. She said she was hesitant to grant a liquor license until the renovations were completed.

Freel said neither of the two companies had a working kitchen yet. He said if the board wishes to issue a bar and grill license to either, the board should consider requiring each company’s kitchen to be operational first.

He said he was against companies that “park” licenses and did not want to license someone who did not use it fully. One of Casper’s retail liquor licenses hasn’t seen much action in recent years. City council has given Travis Taylor, who controls this retail license, until September to show substantial progress in the use of the license.

Napier said council has the option of filing any decision on licensing a bar and grill to Spotlight or Wyoming Downs after hearing their presentations on Tuesday.


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