Customers are already lined up at the doors of Outlet Liquor and Tobacco by 10 a.m. on Sundays, manager Calista Chavis says. People tend to head out-of-town early on the weekends and some like to grab a bottle beforehand, she said.
“If we could open earlier it would benefit us for sure,” Chavis said.
Casper law currently mandates that alcohol can only be sold between 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. But the City Council may soon lift this restriction to give customers and business owners more options.
At last Tuesday’s work session, council members discussed extending Sunday’s alcohol sales hours from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. — the same time frame as every other weekday. The matter will be up for a formal vote later this month.
Arguing that religious influences are the only reason for the current rules, Councilman Shawn Johnson said he supported expanding the hours.
Councilman Dallas Laird agreed and said he believed the city’s business owners should have the right to make their own decisions about when to sell alcohol on Sundays.
But some city leaders had concerns about loosening the restrictions.
“You’re trying to fix something that isn’t broken,” said Councilman Bob Hopkins, explaining that there was no need to make changes because business owners haven’t complained about the current rules.
Police Chief Keith McPheeters cautioned the Council that the change would likely increase calls to the police department.
“Small decisions do have impacts that are hard to see,” he said.
The chief has frequently asked city leaders to recognize that alcohol abuse is a serious problem in Casper.
Fifty-nine percent of people in Casper who are booked into jail are intoxicated and almost half of all drivers arrested for DUIs are more than the twice the legal limit, McPheeters told the Council in February.
Mike Reid, who co-owns Poplar Wine and Spirits, said Thursday that he shares the chief’s concerns. The police department is already overburdened with alcohol-related calls, he explained.
“The additional stress that you would put on the police department [by extending Sunday’s hours] isn’t worth it,” Reid said.
Explaining that he enjoys having peaceful Sunday evenings, Matt Galloway said he wouldn’t personally expand his bar’s operating hours. But the co-owner of The Gaslight Social told the Star-Tribune that he had no objections to offering other business owners that option.
“I respect everybody’s choices,” he said.
Galloway said it would likely be beneficial for liquor retailers to open earlier on Sundays because some customers might want to pick up alcohol before leaving town early to hunt or visit the lake.
There’s “no doubt” that the misuse of alcohol creates problems for Casper’s cops, City Manager Carter Napier said Thursday. But he explained that it’s difficult to predict whether altering Sunday’s alcohol sale hours would cause much harm.
“Just because we allow it doesn’t necessary mean that all the businesses are going to go that route. It’s possible that we might not see that much of a difference,” he said.
Napier added that there is “most definitely” a statewide trend toward lessening the regulations on alcohol.
The Council also recently debated whether to relax open-container laws in some sections of the city’s core during certain community events. These rules were briefly loosened during the Wyoming Eclipse Festival in 2017.
At a work session in August, the police chief advised the council against relaxing open-container laws. The festival’s success was largely due to months of planning and an increased police presence downtown.
After McPheeters comments, some council members quickly nixed the idea.
“I’m behind you 100 percent, [it was a] bad idea,” Councilwoman Kenyne Humphrey told the chief.
Others thought the issue needed further discussion. Councilman Jesse Morgan said he didn’t see the harm in allowing citizens to carry their drinks along a block or two downtown during routine events, like Art Walk.
The Council ultimately decided to revisit the issue at a later date.