After confusion about how to define a commercial kitchen, the Laramie City Council amended a proposed ordinance Tuesday to prohibit minors from entering any establishment earning a majority, or 51 percent, of its revenue from alcohol sales.
The second reading of an ordinance addressing several changes to Wyoming liquor laws was the focus of public comments and a lengthy conversation among councilors and city staff during the council’s business meeting.
During the 2017 Legislative Session, state legislators changed several liquor laws broadening businesses ability to profit from alcohol sales. The Legislature’s changes included removing restrictions on a bar’s hours of operations, redefining dispensing rooms as dispensing buildings and lifting the age restrictions on dispensing buildings.
In response, the council requested Laramie city staff craft an ordinance prohibiting minors from alcohol-serving establishments unless the establishment included a commercial kitchen.
The council approved the first reading of the ordinance and requested a definition for commercial kitchens May 2.
After reading the city’s first attempt at defining a commercial kitchen, Councilor Dave Paulekas asked Laramie Police Chief Dale Stalder to speak to the department’s ability to enforce the lengthy description.
“My guys don’t know what these vents and hoods and electrical outlets even look like and now you got them looking behind boxes for this stuff,” Stalder said. “As I look over this, I keep coming back to the question of how I enforce these regulations.”
The city’s commercial kitchen definition is provided in the sidebar attached.
After further discussion about defining kitchens led to confusion and a lack of confidence in the enforceability of the ordinance, Councilor Vicki Henry proposed an amendment to the ordinance to prohibit minors from establishments that generate 51 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales.
“I’m not sure the council wants minors in establishments that make the majority of their money from alcohol sales,” Mayor Andi Summerville said. “We wouldn’t necessarily be precluding three-quarters of the restaurants in town, unless three-quarters of the restaurants got their primary sales from alcohol.”
Snowy Range Sports Bar & Grill owner Karl McCraken said allowing minors into alcohol-serving establishments should be up to the establishments.
“If you have an 8-year-old coming in to eat — they have to have their family with them,” McCraken said. “I don’t want to deal with that — no bar does. I’m hoping the bar owners will be responsible enough to regulate themselves.”
The amendment passed 7-1, with Councilor Jayne Pearce voting against and Councilor Klaus Hanson absent for the vote.
While the amended ordinance precludes minors from entering businesses that generate 51 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales, it still includes the option for the council to grant any establishment an exception to the rule.
Laramie City Clerk Angie Johnson said she would rely on the businesses to self-report where the majority of their revenue originated.
Residents also voiced concerns about the possibility of the city allowing bars to stay open later, which is allowed under Wyoming’s new laws.
“Our data really shows we have an alcohol problem in Laramie,” said Lena Newlin, an assistant director for the University of Wyoming Half Acre Wellness Center. “I urge you to pass this ordinance as it was written May 2.”
Allowing bars to serve alcohol past 2 a.m. would be a public health concern, said Sean Blackburn, UW associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students.
While the original ordinance included a section regarding liquor license fees, the council approved a motion to move the fee schedule to a resolution for later discussion.
To allow clubs such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Elks Lodge a chance to address the council, Councilor Joe Shumway postponed an amendment to the liquor ordinance that would remove clubs’ ability to serve alcohol 24 hours a day.
“I don’t believe we should have it where people join an organization to party all night,” Councilor Bryan Shuster said.
With Hanson absent for the vote, the second reading of the liquor ordinance was approved 8-0.