Liquor Licensing Labyrinth

Liquor Licensing Labyrinth

By Bradley Harrington

Brad Harrington

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” — C.S. Lewis, “God in the Dock,” 1948 —

Prohibition was repealed back in 1933, but you’d never know it by looking at either Cheyenne’s or Wyoming’s liquor laws, both of which comprise legal labyrinths of magnitudinous proportions.

Some examples would include, but not be limited to:

■ Wyoming state statutes mandate “retail liquor licenses” (WS 12-4-101-a) before anyone can legally sell alcohol (WS 12-4-201-a);

■ These licenses are to be apportioned based on population (WS 12-4-201-d i, ii and iii);

■ These licenses are to cost not less than $300 and not more than $1,500 — paid annually, and in advance (WS-12-4-201-e).

■ That all alcohol purchases and regulation is to be done through and under the direction of the Wyoming Liquor Division (WS 12-2-106-a);

■ And, of course, we have “beer keg registration, “identification labels” and records-keeping (WS 12-5, WS 12-5-502 and WS 12-503).

On the city side, we have a host of rules and regs covering everything from: Licensing and permits (City Code 5.12.030); applications and fees procedures (City Code 5.12.050); sales and consumption restrictions (City Code 5.12.070); and hours of operation (City Code 5.12.130).

And, as testimony to the convolutedness of such arcane regulations, most of it was on full display just the other night, where:

“The head of Maverik convenience stores asked the Cheyenne City Council on Monday to let its north store sell beer and wine with the transfer of a retail liquor license … The council listened to information about the transfer of a retail liquor license from John Lambousis of Cheyenne to the Maverik store …” (“Maverik convenience store in Cheyenne wants to buy liquor license,” WTE, June 27.)

Consider a couple of points that were raised at that meeting, for instance:

“We’re in a market of a controlled state,” DT’s Liquor Store owner Kevin Georges said. “We can’t go and negotiate prices. We get ours from the State of Wyoming … If I buy one bottle or I buy 50 cases of a particular product, it’s still the same cost per bottle.”

And John Lambousis, current owner of the license, stated: “I bought my liquor license back in 1972 for about $75,000. When I retired in 2003, I put it up for sale. It was sold three or four different times, but the sales were not finalized. They were rejected then by a majority of the city council, citing protection for Mom and Pop liquor stores.”

Oh, by the way, did I mention that the sales price for a liquor license in the City of Cheyenne now hovers at about $250,000 on the open market?

Now, while considering all of these rules, regs and comments, imagine the application of all of it to a completely different industry: The production, distribution and sales of washing machines.

Can you imagine a city or state requirement for a “sales license” to sell washing machines? Or that such licenses are to be apportioned according to population? Or that a hefty fee of about $250,000 must be paid by the potential seller of such machines before he/she can open their doors? And that local governing bodies will be closely observing levels of “competition” before awarding such licenses?

How about mandating, as an extra bonus, that all washing machine parts can only be ordered through the Wyoming Washing Machine Division? With no volume price breaks allowed? And that water hoses — which, after all, could potentially be used to strangle someone — must bear an “identification stamp,” with the records of such sales forever lodged in a WWMD database?

Oh, yeah, by the way: You can ONLY sell washing machines between the hours of 6:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. And don’t forget to get TIPS training for your salespeople on those hoses, either.

Were such proposals to be put forth by any of our legislators, they’d be laughed off the podium. When it comes to ALCOHOL, however, all such principles of a free market disappear right out the window.

And, as a final insult: Tom Welch, Maverick Chairman, stated that he “was asked by a member of the council, ‘What have you done for the community?’”

So, now, in addition to jumping through hundreds of city and state hoops, one must prove that his business is “of use” to the community? Who would buy anyone’s products if they weren’t? Last time I looked, “community” relevance — whatever that is — was not a requirement to sell washing machines.

ALL of this rubble needs to be wiped off the books just as fast as our legislators, local and state, can locate their brains — and their respect, such that it exists, for the principle that we should be free to do whatever we like with our lives, money and property, so long as we don’t harm another individual in that process. I’d sure drink to that!

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:

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