SF 43 and SF 45: What These Changes Mean For Liquor License Holders
July 1, 2017 will signal a number of changes for Wyoming retailers. Some big, some small, some just making doing business a little easier.
Senate File 43 (Alcoholic beverages revisions) was primarily intended to simplify and update Wyoming alcohol laws. Among the changes are SF 43 brings are 1) Eliminates the requirement that liquor license renewals must be paid in cash or certified check. You can use a bank issued check or credit card (if they take credit cards!). 2) Repeals restrictions on who can hold a liquor license, such as an elected official or law enforcement. This was successfully legally challenged a number of years ago. 3) Eliminates the $500 annual minimum purchase requirement for all liquor licensees. The $2,000 annual minimum purchase for retail licensees remains. 4) Repeals the limit on the number of restaurant liquor licenses that can be issued. Those caps are all obsolete. 5) Removes the “prohibited acts” for liquor licensees, namely prostitution and illegal gambling. Since those violations are already illegal, there was no need for them in alcohol statutes. 6) Eliminates the requirement for the $250 federal Special Occupational Tax stamp, which the WSLA worked to successfully repeal a few years back.
The biggest change in SF 43 will likely be the removal of the state mandated hours of operation. Before the bill, hours were set in state statute at 6 AM to 2 AM, with cities and towns having the ability to be more restrictive. As of July 1, retailers can be open 24/7 unless otherwise restricted by the city, town or county. We strongly encourage retailers to be actively involved in the process of adoption of local hours of operation.
Senate File 45 (Liquor dispensing rooms) will bring about the biggest change for Full Retail, Limited Retail (Club), Resort, County Malt Beverage, and Bar and Grill liquor licensees, plus a few others, except Restaurant licensees. The term “dispensing room” will be gone for those licensees; your dispensing room will now be your entire building. No more dimensions on a dispensing room… just your street address. No more fees for additional bars (temporary or permanent) required to dispense alcohol in other areas of your building.
For bars and restaurants, the age restrictions for who may enter your establishment will be gone. However, it will be in the ability of cities, towns and counties to modify their ordinances and resolutions to tailor fit your community or county. Some will stick with the state statute and allow all ages to enter. Some may allow all ages if the business serves a full restaurant menu, and some may put a time restriction (10 PM, for example) for those under the age of 21.
This also means, for bars and restaurants, no more “walls” unless required by the local licensing authority. Not floor to ceiling, no fences, no barriers. However, it is important to note that state statute will still restrict entrance into businesses whose primary sales are in off-premise (package) sales. The only time a person under 21 years of age may enter those businesses is if accompanied by a parent, spouse or legal guardian who is 21 or over. So off-premise businesses don’t need a floor to ceiling wall, but they must have some type of barrier to prevent minors from wandering around unaccompanied.
Restaurant liquor licenses, however, have not changed. The same dispensing room requirements remain in place for those licensees. Since state statute forbids alcohol consumption in a restaurant licensee dispensing room, a restaurant licensee wouldn’t want that anyway.
Once again, we strongly encourage retailers to be actively involved in the adoption of any new city ordinances or county resolutions. These two pieces of legislation will allow us to tailor fit much of what was limited before to our own communities and counties. But make sure that any additional ordinances and resolutions are done with your input.
A couple final points: The business owner/operator can still restrict admission in your business at 21 years of age and older. Or you can set your own hours, or the areas, of when underage people may be in your establishment. You cannot, of course, restrict your establishment based on any other criteria besides the age of alcohol consumption. Lastly, please remember that the age of consuming or possessing alcohol still remains at 21. Although these statutory changes will make life easier for hundreds of Wyoming businesses, the responsibility we carry to keep alcohol out of underage hands become that much more important.
Thank you to Mike Moser-Executive Director, Wyoming State Liquor Association for use of this article.