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Sale of old Cody library is finalized

Cody council awards buyers liquor license over other applicant

Park County’s $425,000 sale of the former Cody library building closed on Wednesday after the Cody City Council narrowly cleared the way for the buyers to turn the facility into a family-friendly restaurant, microbrewery, sports bar and arcade.

The plans of Cody businessmen Rich Petersen and Brad Constantine to buy the downtown building and start up the Millstone Pizza Company & Brewery with Gary Johnston had been contingent on getting the city of Cody’s last remaining bar and grill liquor license.

On a 4-3 vote that followed two hours of comments and discussion, the Cody City Council gave Millstone the license over Pat O’Hara Brewing Company — a brewpub being started by Cody dentist Leonard Moore.

“You really don’t know how difficult a situation this is for us to have to make a choice that affects someone’s business,” said Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown on Tuesday night, shortly before casting the deciding vote in favor of Millstone. “Frankly, it’s just the pits.”

Petersen said he and Constantine wouldn’t buy the library if they didn’t get the bar and grill license and suggested they might invest their money somewhere else, including in a different city. He also made the comment that the odds were perhaps 50-50 as to whether Millstone Pizza Company & Brewery would move forward without the liquor license.

“We really feel that we need the license to make it economically feasible,” Petersen said. “Pure and simple economics.”

In contrast, Moore said he was opening Pat O’Hara Brewing Co. regardless of the council’s decision. A previously issued microbrewery license will allow Moore to sell home-brewed and other beer. However, Moore told KODI-AM that being unable to sell liquor and wine would cut his revenue by 25 to 30 percent and for that reason, he would scale back the planned restaurant without the license.

Moore’s commitment to opening — he’s already spent some $250,000 getting the 15th Street location ready to open — appeared to be a part of Moore’s undoing, given Millstone’s uncertain future without the license.

Council President Steve Miller said he was voting to give the license to Millstone because it “will provide an opportunity for two businesses to operate within the community.” Miller, like several other council members, also said it was “a very difficult decision.”

Councilmen Stan Wolz and Donny Anderson and Mayor Brown joined Miller in supporting Millstone.

Wolz said Millstone offered the best overall benefit to the Cody community.

Petersen said his group will be making a “seven-figure” investment in the former library, located on the corner of Sheridan Avenue and 11th Street. Johnston, who’s operated similar businesses in California, said they’ll employ around 25 people year-round and 40 in the summer. Moore had planned to employ 15.

Councilmen Landon Greer, Jerry Fritz and Bryan Edwards voted against giving the license to Millstone; Greer and Fritz voiced concerns about the limited parking and impacts to the neighborhood, particularly a nearby senior citizens complex.

“Millstone just seems to be too big for the area,” Greer said.

Moore had lost out on a more flexible retail liquor license last year, also a 4-3 vote.

Council members then had encouraged Moore to apply for a bar and grill license, but Moore had said the license — which requires 60 percent of revenue to come from food — wouldn’t work. He’d been highly critical of the council after they turned him down in favor of the Chamberlin Inn, but ultimately reworked his plan to expand the kitchen and apply.

Former Cody City Councilman Charles Cloud, who left the council at the end of the year, urged his former colleagues to forget that “Dr. Moore acted like a butt” when the retail license went to the Chamberlin.

Considering the encouragement the council gave Moore about the bar and grill license, giving it to him is “just the right thing to do,” Cloud said.

Moore’s attorney, Mark Garrison of Cody, described his client as a man who’s “dotted his i’s, he’s crossed every single t. He made the commitment” and was ready to open “almost immediately.”

In contrast, Millstone plans to take somewhere between six and 10 months to open.

Other supporters of Pat O’Hara Brewing Co. noted Moore has already invested in the brewpub and the establishment’s uniqueness.

Cody resident Steve Wood said the city has pizza places but not Pat O’Hara’s Irish cuisine and crafted beers.

“This will really be something that will really draw people in and something that will be different enough and unique enough that it will brand Cody a little bit,” Wood said.

However, Millstone supporters said its mix of entertainment, craft beers and food is also unlike anything currently in Cody. Petersen gave a rough comparison to Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, Applebee’s and Old Chicago.

Millstone, unlike Pat O’Hara Brewing Co., will be open to children as well as adults.

“I think it caters to everyone, and I don’t think you want to let it slip away,” resident Jay Blough of Cody told the council.

Many, including some on the council, wished both businesses could get a license. However, state law limits retail and bar and grill liquor licenses based on a municipality’s population.

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4 comments

  • posted by SuperSixOne

    June 06, 2013 9:03 pm

    CodyCitizen, look at the macroeconomics of our dilemma. I realize this may be difficult. Macroeconomics deals with the decision making of an economy. Because our population numbers are so low, businesses like the two discussed in this article, are harmed by the Cody city council’s inability to be forward thinking, and come up with a plan to mitigate growth and revenue shortfalls due to liquor licenseing limitations. Understand, if Yellowstone tourism ever came to a halt, Cody would collaspe. So, the moral of my lesson in macroeconomics is simple. CHANGE the state laws that LIMIT job growth. Do not wait until the problem is at your door, become proactive and take the fight to the problems we see coming down the road. Hence, we make a decision NOT to stifle business growth. No where is that more important than Cody, because we DEPEND on tourism. What do tourists do? They eat at our restaurants, they drink alcohol at our establishments, they book rooms in our hotels. These are three guarentees you will get from the tourists who choose Cody. Businesses like these two, should not be faced with a brick wall that impeeds growth. That DECISION is ours to make. Cody city council failed to be forward thinking on this issue, and now they find themselves making a decision relating to job growth and tax revenues for Cody, that could have been easily averted. Instead of two nice establishments for jobs and tax revenue, we get one, maybe one and a half. Yes, we are limited by state law on liquor licenses, but are we not a government of the people, by the people, for the people? That sound familiar? I just hope Cody city council reads this, and we begin the process to change the state laws that have a negative affect on our sustainment, growth and revenue making capabilities. The tax revenue could possibly be used for all these “road repair problems”in Park County we have been reading about. Cannot wait for the next Park County tax levy, we will only have ourselves to blame, because we failed to install a council who can determine we have just one liquor license left, and we may need to address this issue with Mr Krone, and have him submit a Bill to mitigate this issue, before it becomes a growth and revenue problem.

  • posted by CodyCitizen

    June 06, 2013 4:28 pm

    CJ Baker, congrats for taking the time to listen and write a quality and factual article. Very well done. I was at the council meeting in Cody that evening and your article was a description of exactly what took place. No edited quotes as an attempt to sensationalize what was a very informative and thorough public hearing.
    Thank you.

  • posted by CodyCitizen

    June 06, 2013 4:23 pm

    Corrected.
    SuperSixOne, did you even read the article? The Cody city Council did not stifleAN Y of the businesses. They granted a bar and grill license to one of them. The other stated that they will continue on without that particular license. The council has done nothing but welcome these businesses to the city. Combined, both businesses also intend to hire a substantial amount of employees. Yes, jobs. I've read your comment several times to see if I missed something. I did not. You did!

  • posted by SuperSixOne

    June 06, 2013 10:27 am

    "You really don’t know how difficult a situation this is for us to have to make a choice that affects someone’s business,” said Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown.

    Mayor Brown, you really don't know how difficult it is for the citizens of this city to trust you to make a decision involving business in Cody.

    Anyone EVER wonder why we cannot attract business in this town?

    Thank goodness that Cody is close to Yellowstone. If Yellowstone tourism did not exist, neither would businesses in Cody. Cody city council will continue to stifle business development, all in the name of "keeping our small town atmosphere". If we had more businesses, maybe, just maybe, our population would grow, and we would not have this conversation.

    In order to live in Cody, one must be able to work in Cody. A concept lost in the thought process of Cody city council.

    Both of these new businesses would be welcomed, unfortunately, Cody city council lacks the wherewithal to put out the welcome mat.

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