- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Proposed legislation would increase the number of liquor licenses available statewide for restaurants with bars, but the bill faces stiff opposition from some business owners.

Supporters of proposal, which would create 129 new “bar and grill” liquor licenses, say some national chains want to open restaurants that serve alcohol but can’t because of Wyoming’s restrictive laws. Lawmakers aren’t suggesting changes to the number of available retail liquor licenses.

“Some companies want to keep coming into the market, but they’re precluded from doing so,” local developer Randy Hall said. “Our licensing is monopolistic and anti-competitive.”

Any increase in liquor licenses is good for economic development, Casper city planner Craig Collins told the Casper Star-Tribune (https://bit.ly/1zyHT7P ).

“I think if we want to see additional restaurants, we’re going to have to offer up more licenses,” he said.

Opponents of the bill include business owners who hold the state’s limited number of liquor licenses, which in some cities can be worth $250,000 when sold from one company to another.

“The existing operators didn’t set the system up, but we’re also trying to protect the value of our retail licenses. And we paid dearly to get into this business,” said Casper businessman Pat Sweeney, who owns two retail liquor licenses.

The bill seeks to address a problem that doesn’t exist, said Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming Liquor Association.

Statewide, 52 of 236 available bar and grill licenses have been issued. Only Laramie, Gillette, Casper, Cody, Pinedale, Jackson and Evanston have run out of those type of licenses.

“People think if you let everybody have a liquor license, it’s going to increase business,” Moser said. “But you’re not going to drink more, you just slice the same pie into smaller pieces.”

The bill could be introduced during the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 13.

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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