The Jackson Town Council approved Monday the application process for retail and “bar and grill” liquor licenses. The decision sets opening and deadline dates for applications for the coveted licenses.
Before Monday’s vote, the applications had been temporarily suspended while staff updated the application packets and procedures.
Councilors instructed Town Clerk Sandy Birdyshaw and her staff to make the updated application packets available for the two types of licenses on May 3, with applications then being accepted from June 1 through June 15. Staff was directed not to accept any such applications after June 15 until further notice.
The town currently holds two retail liquor licenses — with a third pending appeal by Tastebuds LLC before the Wyoming Supreme Court — and one bar and grill license, according to Birdyshaw.
The number of licenses available is governed by state statue, based upon a town’s population, and Jackson is allotted six bar and grill licenses, one of which returned to the town’s possession on April 1. Jackson has 20 total retail liquor licenses, including the two currently available and the one that is the subject of Tastebuds’ appeal. If the 2020 Census shows the town’s population to be more than 12,500 people, Jackson will receive an additional retail license. Restaurant liquor licenses are unlimited, though they still require town approval.
State law allows a fee range of between $300 and $1,500 for retail liquor licenses, and Jackson has charged the maximum $1,500 for such licenses since the law was enacted in 1935. Restaurant liquor licenses, created in the 1970s, can cost between $500 and $3,000, with the Town of Jackson’s costing $1,514 annually, according to a March 15 staff report.
Meanwhile, bar and grill liquor licenses, which were created in 2006, have a fee range of $1,500 to $10,500. Jackson charges $1,514 annually for those licenses, with Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen explaining that is done out of fairness, to keep those costs in line with the retail and restaurant licenses.
At the March 15 meeting, the council’s last meeting prior to Monday’s, Jorgensen noted that the council in the past chose to keep the cost of the bar and grill and restaurant licenses the same as retail licenses, as those licenses are more limiting than retail licenses, calling it an “equity” decision.
Councilor Jessica Sell Chambers said she’s “torn” on that issue and said that maxing out the bar and grill and restaurant license fees — while bringing in more revenue for the town — could be a major obstacle for people trying to open a new business.
In Birdyshaw’s staff report, an Aug. 2 date was targeted for licenses for successful applicants — if any are awarded — to become effective, with a prorated eight-month fee of $1,000 charged. Councilor Jim Rooks, though, asked if that date could be accelerated to allow any successful applicants to have more time to take advantage of the busy summer tourism season. Birdyshaw responded that the date was chosen in order “to skirt around budget discussions that the council has,” but that it could be moved up by two or three weeks if the council desired.
Councilor Jonathan Schechter moved to direct Birdyshaw and town staff to proceed with the schedule outlined in the staff report, with the packets becoming available on May 3 and the application period spanning June 1-15. The motion was seconded by Councilor Chambers and passed with a unanimous 4-0 vote. Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson was not able to attend the meeting, which was presided over by Vice Mayor Jorgensen.
Much of the rest of the meeting involved various housekeeping items, including the council voting to annex one half-acre parcel of land along Flat Creek and three portions of roadways. Vice Mayor Jorgensen explained after the meeting that the moves were simply to streamline jurisdictional matters for law enforcement and other departments.
“These annexations will provide a jurisdictional clean-up of the Town’s corporate boundary where peculiarities make jurisdiction for police officers difficult to manage and public works maintenance responsibilities unclear,” the staff report states.
Councilors also approved a restaurant liquor license for an eatery called Kampai that Birdyshaw said is expected to open in mid-August or September in the space formerly occupied by E.Leaven at 175 Center St. A second restaurant liquor license application, for Alpine Lodge, 285 N. Glenwood, was tabled as the applicant and town staff work through some procedural issues.