Teton County awarded its last remaining retail liquor license this week to the North Grille at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis.
The decision puts the runner-up for the license, Snow King Mountain Resort’s Panorama House bar, in a bad position.
Retail liquor licenses allow for consumption on premise and off premise, so an establishment can sell packaged liquor and have a bar. They are the only type of license that is limited by county population, and are highly valuable because they can be sold by one businesses to another on the free market.
Wyoming statutes encourage counties to award them based on the welfare of people in the vicinity of the establishment and the number of licenses already in an area.
The North Grille has serving alcohol under a grandfathered license from 1967 that has unclear standards for where alcohol can be served on the golf course property.
General Manager Alex Klein said the Golf and Tennis community continues to grow and is underserved when it comes to packaged liquor vendors. The only other retail license holder in the Gros Ventre Road area is Jedediah’s, the airport restaurant that requires a boarding pass to get into.
Klein also said replacing its existing license with a retail license is an opportunity to clear up ambiguity and confusion about the outdated license.
“We’re in a bit of a gray area right now in terms of what’s permitted and what’s not permitted,” Klein said.
Teton County commissioners decided that cleaning up the confusing conditions of the North Grille’s current license was a top priority.
Without the retail license, Snow King Mountain Resort can’t serve alcohol at its summit Panorama House. Last summer the resort invested about $30,000 in revamping and creating a bar at the Panorama House at the Snow King summit, General Manager Ryan Stanley said.
But it was open for only a few days before the county shut down liquor sales, saying Snow King’s town-issued resort liquor license did not cover the mountain’s summit, which falls under county jurisdiction.
Stanley reminded commissioners that Golf and Tennis is owned by Vail Resorts, “one of the biggest ski resorts in the country,” while Snow King is “a 78-year-old local ski hill that’s been here and is trying to survive.”
“We’re trying to figure out how we can pay our bills and keep moving forward,” Stanley said, “and this is one of those opportunities for us.”
Stanley said he was disappointed but respected the decision. He was unsure what will happen at Panorama House.
Deputy County Attorney Keith Gingery said Snow King has some options left: It can petition the state Legislature to allow Snow King to get a license for beer sales; wait until more retail licenses become available, likely in 2021, and reapply; ask the town to annex the summit into its jurisdiction; or turn the Panorama House into a restaurant to get a restaurant license. That final option could take years as Snow King works out approvals for its new master plan.
Gingery said the resort could also use 24-hour catering permits to sell liquor at the summit on a maximum of 36 days a year for a fee of $100 each, an option Stanley said was not acceptable.
Other rejected applicants were Nora’s Fish Creek Inn in Wilson, which needs time to work out some zoning issues, and Sudachi sushi restaurant in Teton Village.
The county may get more licenses to allot in 2021 after a new census will determine if the population has grown sufficiently, at which time applicants can try again.
The vote was split, with commissioners Mark Newcomb, Natalia Macker and Smokey Rhea in favor of issuing the license to Golf and Tennis, and commissioners Greg Epstein and Paul Vogelheim opposed.