Public Hearings Held on New Liquor Permits
Public hearings were held for the six retail liquor license applicants vying for one of the two new permits available in Laramie at a work session for the Laramie city council on Tuesday night.
Each applicant was given 15 minutes for a presentation and then the public was given a chance to comment or ask questions. City council members were also allowed to ask questions of each applicant to prepare for their regular meeting on May 1 during which they will make a decision on the applications, bringing a possible end to a long process. Mayor Scott Mullner recused himself because he is part of a corporation that applied for one of the licenses. Here’s a rundown on each applicant and the proceedings from the public hearing.
Crowbar and Grill
Owners Andy Glines and Justin Turner presented their desire to open a restaurant and bar that is dedicated to craft beer and utilizes local suppliers. They said they have made roughly $150,ooo in renovations to their downtown location at 202 South 2nd Street They mentioned that it would be nearly impossible for them to offer the food and beer menu they want to without a retail liquor license because in their model they would make half of their revenue from alcohol sales and a bar and grill license requires 60 percent of sales to come from food.
Glines stated that an opening for the Crowbar has been set for May 11, and that if they do not receive the full retail liquor license, they will have to open with only a food menu, because it would take roughly eight more weeks to apply for and receive a bar and grill license and they don’t have the time or resources to wait.
Trey Sherwood from the Laramie Main Street Alliance commended them for their hard work and mentioned the 27 employees who were being hired by the Crowbar. She said community feedback shows that people are excited about the soon-to-be open establishment and thanked them for their full compliance with the design guidelines while changing the facade at their location.
The owner of Luciano’s, Eileen Obssuth, mentioned that Luciano’s has applied for two retail liquor licenses because they are looking at a possible move of the restaurant. At the time the applications were due, they were unsure of the possibility of the move, but want a retail license so they can expand their catering operations regardless of where they are located in Laramie. So they put in an application for each possible location so they would not have to go through a transfer of the license if they guessed wrong on which location they would eventually be at. Obssuth also said that they only desire one retail license and one location, so if they do move to a new location, the downtown location of Luciano’s will close.
Luciano’s (Grand Avenue)
While Luciano’s has been fairly successful in their downtown location since opening two years ago, owner Eileen Obssuth said they are in desperate need of a bigger kitchen as they continue to grow and hope to build on their catering operations. Their Letter of Intent to purchase the old Winger’s location at 3626 East Grand Avenue has been accepted and she anticipates a move to that location.
Obssuth estimated spending $200,000 on cleaning the interior, getting a used kitchen, and renovating the building to get catering and restaurant operations up and running. Further down the road a more extension renovation of the exterior of the building would be completed including a patio addition.
When asked if a retail liquor license was absolutely necessary for Luciano’s to make the move, Obssuth said she thought the move would take place anyway, but the lack of a retail license would severely limit their catering capabilities because the restaurant license they currently have does not allow them to sell alcohol off premises.
Dan Garcia talked of his 33 years at Bailey’s and his plans for encouraging a family atmosphere with a $65,000 to $70,000 expansion of the patio. It would become a no smoking area and allow for private parties while also expanding their catering capabilities. Councilor Molar asked if he would go through with the expansion if he did not receive the liquor license to which Garcia said he would only go forward with the project if he got the full retail license because the expansion would include an additional bar and a bar and grill license does not allow for two bars.
Two members of the public spoke in favor of Bailey’s receiving the permit. Dave O’Malley mentioned the countless times he took his family to the patio while his children were growing up and the 33 years of sweat equity Garcia put into his business. Tim Chesnutt said Garcia has one of only three businesses in Laramie that have been continuously run for 30 years and he thought he should be rewarded for that. Chesnutt also stated his belief that Laramie is over-saturated in the restaurant business and that he doesn’t see how some new businesses will make it.
Fox Hole Enterprises
Scott Mullner made the presentation for Fox Hole Enterprises which is looking to construct a 3-story building on the site of the Empress Theatre with 5700 square feet on each level. The main floor would feature a chop house type restaurant. Mullner said the $3-4 million project would replace something that was lost in the community while adding residential and office space to the downtown area. He also mentioned the facade, which would is being designed to capture the flavor of the original building while adhering to the downtown design guidelines.
Public comment was made by Sherwood, who encouraged the council to look beyond just one or two years down the road to thirty or forty years in the future and the value the new building would give to the downtown area. She also noted that the structure would fill an eyesore that has been hindering growth on the north side of downtown.
Councilor Joe Vitale and a member of the public, Tim Hale, questioned Mullner on whether he had a conflict of interest in the matter, because he is a member of the city council and mayor of the city of Laramie. Mullner replied that he believes he is in compliance and has consulted with the city attorney and other attoneys in the matter to make sure he is. He added that he believes in the value of the project to the point that if he thought there was a conflict, he would rather resign than not apply for the license. Mullner reiterated that the State had reviewed and approved the application because he is a member of an LLC, not an individual applying for the license.
Private attorney Mike Bason spoke for Arsenio Lemus, mentioning that Mr. Lemus’ application was distinguished from the rest of the applicants because the other five were primarily for restaurant or bar and grill establishments. The plan that Lemus has would be for a place used mainly for entertainment and 70 percent of revenue would come from alcohol. Bason talked of Lemus’ desire to open a high end lounge that could be a destination spot with liquor as the primary operation. Dining would simply be a complement to the alcohol and entertainment atmosphere according to Bason.
The location of the lounge would be across the street from Optimum (Bresnan) on 3rd Street. This location is not within the city limits, so the license would be parked at a residence on 4th Street while the eventual process went through the annexation process and a $1 million dollar, 6,000 square foot building was constructed.
Public comment from Justin Turner questioned Mr. Lemus’ ability to take on the project, mentioning the construction which has been taking place at Lemus’ residence for the past several years. Bason said that Lemus would pull people out of other projects to make sure Arsenio’s Place is completed within two years.
Bason was also asked about whether or not Lemus had considered applying for a retail liquor license from the county. He said they prefer to be in city limits for water and sewage purposes.