Late last week, City of Powell officials learned that Yellowstone Motors planned to host a Kentucky Derby race viewing event and wanted to serve alcohol to attendees. Because the request came just a …
Late last week, City of Powell officials learned that Yellowstone Motors planned to host a Kentucky Derby race viewing event and wanted to serve alcohol to attendees. Because the request came just a couple days before Saturday’s gathering, city officials needed to call a special meeting to consider a catering permit.
In a four-minute-long meeting dedicated solely to the permit on Friday, the council unanimously approved. Whoever said government can’t act quickly?
It was not the first time a local business or organization has, for one reason or another, sought a catering or malt beverage too close to the event to make the agenda for a regularly scheduled meeting; Park County commissioners have also held a special meeting or two over the years to allow beer or wine to flow.
The City of Powell wisely has policies in place to ensure city money isn’t being lost: If a special meeting is necessary, the applicant is required to pay the councilors for their time (mayors and commissioners are salaried, so they get no extra compensation for an extra meeting). It makes sense, because the city shouldn’t be forced to eat costs whenever someone quickly plans an event. But it does make permits expensive: While a permit typically costs $50, one issued at a special meeting can run you $710.
More significantly, the whole process seems like a waste of everyone’s time. It feels unnecessary to have five commissioners, or a mayor and six council members, sign off on someone selling or offering a few beers at every wedding, mule sale or social gathering. Couldn’t these permits be issued administratively, by city or county staff?
Of course, the trouble lies not with local governments, but with Wyoming statutes, which explicitly place liquor licensing authority with “the governing body” of cities, towns and counties. But lawmakers should consider allowing councils and commissioners to delegate the authority for malt beverage permits. These just aren’t the kind of decisions that need to rise to the level of an elected board.
In the case of Yellowstone Motors, the council was simply allowing an already-licensed and liquor law-complaint establishment, Sage Brews Wine and Spirits, to serve alcohol at a long-established business.
Such permits seem ideally suited for being handled administratively. The city or county clerk could review the applications (as they do already), run it past the police chief or sheriff for any concerns (as they do already) and then issue a permit if everything’s in order. If not, the permit could be elevated to the county commission or city council for review, with a special meeting called if necessary.
But it’s hard to recall the last time that a malt beverage or catering permit drew serious consternation from an elected body; it certainly happens less often than special meetings for late applications.
In the past legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill, HB 13, that relaxed several rules for licensees — including allowing some stores to deliver alcoholic beverages to their customers. Allowing governing bodies to delegate their authority to issue malt beverage and catering permits would be a good next step.