Laramie bars could be forced to change their late-night drink specials and even close earlier if the Laramie City Council considers changing liquor license ordinances.
The ideas were discussed as the council considered the Ad Hoc Alcohol Committee’s recent recommendations during its Tuesday work session.
The committee submitted eight recommendations for potential action, with possibilities ranging from changing ordinances to issuing proclamations. One recommendation involved changing ordinances to prohibit any alcoholic drink specials after 10 p.m., something Sean Blackburn, an Ad Hoc Committee member and vice president of student affairs at the University of Wyoming, urged council members to consider.
The recommendation, Blackburn explained during the work session, came after the committee was shown research indicating a correlation between late-night alcohol consumption and increases in alcohol-related crimes and consequences.
“Council, I don’t know that Laramie is well served by a dollar Jack-and-coke at one in the morning,” Blackburn said. “We have a ton of people who have an increased chance of an alcohol consequences that the citizens of Laramie are paying through LPD and other taxes; I don’t know that that’s a good use of city resources.”
Not all council members seemed on board with the idea. Councilman Charles McKinney said while he understood what the committee was trying to do, prohibiting late happy hour times felt like an overreach.
“You’re trying to dictate what somebody does with their business and how they operate their business, and I don’t think that’s something we want to get involved in,” McKinney said during the work session.
Councilwoman Erin O’Doherty said during the work session a restriction on times businesses can have drink specials isn’t an overreach, because “having a liquor license is a privilege.”
Some council members, however, recalled an unsuccessful similar happy hour restriction around 10 years ago. Councilman Bryan Shuster explained during the work session that when it was implemented, there was a “big kickback” as people expressed concerns about the lack of clarification of the definition of happy hour, among other issues.
“We got a lot of kickback by both community and bar owners,” Schuster said during the work session.
Councilman Paul Weaver said during the work session he wasn’t a fan of the ordinance, and he felt addressing overserving customers, not drink specials, could be the underlying problem. However, Laramie Police Chief Dale Stalder explained Wyoming is one of the only states where there is no “case law in place for serving an obviously intoxicated person.”
Weaver suggested there might be a better way to curb overserving instead of instituting late-night drink special limitations, especially considering not every establishment has late night drink specials in the first place.
“The application of different times for closure of liquor establishments across the board in a way almost seems like a more fair way to apply regulations to liquor establishments, assuming we can do that in conjunction with the county,” Weaver said during the work session. “But who knows, that might be received just as well.”
Offering another idea, Councilman Brian Harrington said bars could stop allowing those younger than 21 inside after 10 p.m. to help curb underage drinking.
Stalder said while changing closure times or implementing happy hour restrictions is up to the council, he did advise changing the mandatory closure times would involve changing multiple ordinances.
Council does not vote on issues during work sessions but did promise to indicate to city staff which of the eight total recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee should move forward to a regular meeting for a vote. City Council agendas are posted ahead of the meeting on the city website, www.cityoflaramie.org/AgendaCenter/City-Council-1