Dana Packard isn’t afraid of competition.
The general manager at Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana said having more rivalries in the business community keeps everyone on their toes.
“You need something kicking you in the (behind) to make sure you do a better job than you did yesterday,” she explained.
Given this attitude, it’s not surprising she was eager to see six new bar and grill licenses are available in Casper.
“I think that’s a great thing,” she said. “There should be more liquor licenses in Wyoming—it shouldn’t be that difficult to open something.”
Wyoming law caps the number of full retail liquor licenses cities can issue based on their populations. The retail licenses — ones used for bars and liquor stores — are a valuable commodity that are sometimes sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
Bar and grill licenses are also issued based their population, but a recent legislative change allotted more to Casper. The licenses are a relatively new concept. They require restaurants to make a certain amount of profit from food, but permit them to make slightly more revenue from liquor than a regular restaurant liquor license.
“The state Legislature rewrote the law and we are [now] allowed to have 14 for our city’s population of roughly 60,000 people,” Pete Meyers, the assistant support services director for the city of Casper, previously told the Star-Tribune.
Casper was formerly permitted to hold eight, meaning six licenses will be up for grabs when the application process starts in September.
Packard said obtaining a bar and grill license was crucial for Racca’s, which opened in downtown Casper last August.
“We wouldn’t have opened [without one],” she remarked.
The pizzeria offers a wide drink menu, including signature cocktails like Racca’s Rita, Strawberry Jalapeño Caipiroska, and the Blackberry Sage Gin Fizz. Offering customers “amazing and different” drink options is an important part of the business, said Packard.
Not all business owners in Casper support the additional licenses.
Matt Galloway, the owner of The Keg and Cork sports bar and newly opened The Gaslight Social bar, said he hopes City Council doesn’t issue all the licenses at once. Instead, he wants them to distribute the licenses in small increments.
Galloway said he’s worried Casper’s population isn’t large enough to support a sudden influx of drinking establishments.
“It would be catastrophic” he explained. “You would see more than a few businesses go completely bankrupt.”
Some areas in the city are already saturated with bars, said Galloway, adding that he hopes council will consider location when deciding which applicants to approve. The council has, in the past, used the licenses to help boost business in the downtown area.
Council should also consider giving the licenses to existing dining establishments, Galloway said.
“You would be making a business stronger and better,” he remarked.
Mayor Kenyne Humphrey said recently that council looks forward to the additional licenses and the new jobs they could eventually create. Growth in the community is a priority for council, she added.
However, the mayor also acknowledged bringing more businesses to Casper is a “double-edged sword” since it increases competition for existing establishments.
Other council members weighed in on this issue at an early August work session.
“Every time you release one [bar and grill license], you are affecting every other business out there,” said Councilman Charlie Powell.
Councilman Dallas Laird said members should consider holding on to at least one license.
The council decided that this year’s application process will stay the same: Council will review all the applications, allow a few strong contenders to make presentations, and then take a vote on which ones to approve.
“I think council wants to see projects that will either revitalize an area of downtown or maybe be an addition to the west side to help west side development,” Humphrey said Monday.
The mayor recalled that about six people applied for a bar and grill license last year when one was available, but she suspects the council will receive more applications this year due to the increase.
Gilda Lara, executive director for the Casper Area Chamber of Commerce, said she thinks any new dining and drinking establishments will add excitement and vitality to the city, and encourage residents to go out more and enjoy the town. She believes more people being out-and-about could be great for older businesses and new ones.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” she remarked.