The Wonder Bar, a downtown Casper institution for decades, is closing, its management company announced Friday afternoon.
In a brief statement, the C85 Group, which operates the Wonder Bar, said that Sunday will be the bar’s last day of business.
The statement indicated the restaurant’s 25 employees may have opportunities to transfer to other locations in the group of food and beverage establishments owned by C85.
“The management recognizes the dedication of their staff,” it states, “and will work to place them at positions within our community.”
A C85 employee did not immediately respond to a voicemail message requesting further information about plans for the building.
Earlier in the day, two employees told the Star-Tribune the restaurant and bar will close but asked not to be identified, deferring on-record comment to the ownership group.
The Wonder Bar, which originally opened in 1934, was bought by the Cercy family in the fall of 2016. After it was gutted, remodeled and expanded, it reopened in August 2017, just before the total solar eclipse that drew large crowds to Casper.
Tony Cercy, who bought the Wonder Bar with his son, Cole, was arrested a month before the venue’s reopening and charged with performing oral sex on an unconscious 20-year-old woman. In November, he was convicted of third-degree sexual assault after a first trial resulted in a hung jury on the charge and an acquittal on two other counts. He is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.
Tony Cercy relinquished ownership of the liquor license for the Wonder Bar in February 2018, according to copies of the application and City Council meeting minutes.
Friday’s statement from C85 gave no reason for the closure. However, the business has experienced a noticeable decline in customers. Shortly after noon Friday, a reporter saw only two people in the downstairs dining area.
Housed in a 105-year-old building near the corner of Center Street and Midwest Avenue, the Wonder Bar for decades served as a popular watering hole for the city. It was known for attracting famous guests, including John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway and Dizzy Gillespie. According to local legend, patrons in the early years could ride into the bar on horseback to order drinks.
The Wonder Bar has gone through about 10 owners over the years. Pat Sweeney, now a state lawmaker, sold the business to the Cercys.
The family made major changes to the building. They opened a restaurant on the ground floor, moved the bar to the north side of the building and opened a new sports bar upstairs. The style and decor changed dramatically in the process.
The Cercy family purchased several other businesses in and around downtown about that time, including Galles Liquor, the Pump Room and a space that housed an Italian restaurant, which they turned into the Branding Iron.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to change attribution of the press release announcing the Wonder Bar's closure. The press release was unclear and a C85 employee later contacted to the Star-Tribune to offer clarification.