Casper City Council Balks at Renewing Powder River Vets Club Liquor License
It's the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 991.
It's the Powder River Veterans Club.
It seems to be both.
And it's confusing, Casper City Councilwoman Robin Mundell said Tuesday.
"It seems like we're taking this rule and that rule," Mundell said at the council meeting Tuesday. "I'm not sure I can support this."
There are 91 establishments in the city that have liquor licenses: 36 retail, 30 restaurant, 11 limited retail, two microbrewery, four resort, seven bar and grill, and one manufacturer satellite winery.
Two of them -- Moonlight Liquors and Powder River Veteran's Club -- have raised red flags with the city and the Casper Police Department.
Capt. Steve Freel told council that Moonlight Liquors, 2305 E 12th St., has been the scene of numerous fights, some with 60 to 100 participants, that have required responses by Casper police, the Natrona County Sheriff's Office, the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Evansville Police Department.
Moonlight owner Al Curtis said he has had the license renewed 34 times before and he has invested more than $1 million in his business. "The last thing I want is trouble."
Curtis has hired a security team that significantly quelled the violence, and has installed a security system to monitor offenders who are barred from the Moonlight.
Councilmembers said they were satisfied with the progress Curtis has made.
However, they weren't impressed with the Powder River Veterans Club, 420 W. First St.
Freel told council that it is a members-only club, but has flouted that restriction. Since September, the club has advertised events open to the public, advertised itself as a nightclub and was taking memberships, and advertised a concert open to the public.
Talks with the VFW commander apparently haven't resolved the problems, Freel said.
Neither has the personal touch.
Last Friday, Freel took the city council meeting packet to the club, was told he was not a member told to stand outside until someone could help him.
Incredulous councilman Dan Sandoval asked if ejecting a police officer was even legal. "How can you say 'no' to the Five-O?"
Mundell said the club is not following the rules of the Kansas City, Mo.-based Veterans of Foreign Wars.
City Attorney Bill Luben said the liquor license renewal application was as a veteran's club, not a social club.
The VFW Post 911's quartermaster Joseph Pillen told the council he was sorry about what happened to Freel last Friday, and he has told the bartender to know who is and is not a member.
The post has a new board of directors, Pillen said. "We're learning the ropes. If given the chance, we will do right."
The VFW post is trying to separate itself from the Powder River Veterans Club, which rents out a room to the VFW itself, he added.
Those explanations didn't impress councilman Bob Hopkins.
"They're not listening," Hopkins said. "It's time to drop the hammer, guys."
Council, with the exception of council member Kenyne Schlager who voted against renewing any of the licenses, approved the renewals with the exception of the Powder River Veterans Club.
Mayor Charlie Powell says he wants to discuss the matter in a work session.
"We aren't even clear," Powell said. "You can't require people to follow the rules if the rules aren't clear."