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Council reintroduces grocery store liquor sale resolution that initially failed to reach majority vote

The resolution, which flopped at the governing body's Feb. 26 meeting, will be brought forward again on March 25.

Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association, speaks at a podium during the public comment period on Monday, March 11 during Cheyenne City Council's regular meeting inside the City Council Chambers. (Jared Gendron/Cap City News)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A resolution that previously failed to garner support among most Cheyenne City Council members was reintroduced Monday night. The governing body will officially vote to pass or nix it at its next regular meeting March 25.

The resolution, which proposes introducing a new kind of liquor license to grocery and convenience stores throughout the state, fell to a 5–4 vote at the council’s Feb. 26 meeting. If passed, Cheyenne’s councilmembers would submit the resolution to the Wyoming Association of Municipalities and ask other cities to sponsor the effort. If enough municipalities sign on, then WAM will ask the Wyoming State Legislature to consider codifying the resolution into state law during its 2025 Legislature session.

Councilmember Ken Esquibel reintroduced the resolution at the tail end of Monday night’s meeting. The council president opposed the resolution when discussing it in late February, saying it had a slim chance of attracting favor with other cities or Wyoming lawmakers. On Monday night, though, he said the proposal should at least be given a chance.

“One of the reasons I brought it back for reconsideration … I just didn’t want it to stop here,” Esquibel said. “So just to give it the opportunity and continue the discussion, especially the one we’re having right now, it’s good for it to be out in the public.”

Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association, was present at Monday night’s council meeting. He pushed back on the proposed state liquor license during the public comment period.

“I’m not sure why we need to make alcohol more accessible,” Moser said. “Obviously, a new type of license would go through state statute. I don’t think there will be a lot of traction … and I’d imagine the law enforcement groups wouldn’t be too pleased about this either.”

Councilmember Richard Johnson, who sponsored the resolution, stated the liquor license only applies to drinks with a maximum of 5% alcohol volume because he based the proposal on Utah’s counterpart law. He argued that making alcohol accessible at locations such as gas or convenience stores would benefit Wyoming’s tourism economy, which has become the state’s leading industry.

“Tourism is now our number-one commodity in Wyoming,” Johnson said. “It’s no longer the mineral extractions. So these are the types of things we had to look at, and that was a lot of the reason why I drafted this.”

Moser again raised his concerns regarding the state’s alcohol outlet density. He said increasing accessibility to alcoholic beverages could potentially increase cases of drunk driving, underage drinking and overburdening law enforcement. 

“I can tell you we [the liquor association] would not support this legislation,” Moser continued. “It’s a handout to corporate chains that really don’t need it and have other ways to get a packaged liquor store if they choose to do so.”

One study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which Moser referenced Monday night — examines alcohol outlet density as a public health issue. The report states “high alcohol outlet density is also linked with many alcohol-attributable effects among neighborhoods further away from alcohol outlets, such as alcohol-impaired driving, pedestrian injuries, domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect.”

“Liquor licenses are a wonderful thing, but too much of a wonderful thing is still too much,” Moser continued, “and so that’s why we strictly control it. We’re not selling burritos. Nobody ever caused a car crash and killed somebody because they had too many burritos.”

Councilmember Michelle Aldrich voted against the resolution Feb. 26 and did so again Monday night. She said she believed bringing it to the Wyoming Association of Municipalities isn’t worth the organization’s limited time.

“I’m thinking about all the issues as I’ve gone to the WAM meetings over the last three years — they’re crucial to small communities,” Aldrich said. “Things like the housing shortages, and the drug issues, and all the things that small communities are battling. And I think using WAM and using their time … is not good use and not being a good steward of our dues, nor their time.”

The governing body voted to postpone the resolution’s reconsideration to its next regular meeting March 25.