But in the wake of that decision, many other residents rallied behind Sleeping Giant and urged the commission to reconsider. The ski area's manager re-applied for a license on Dec. 3, and after the mandatory four weeks of advertising, a second …
Commission OK's liquor at Sleeping GiantReversing course, Park County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to grant the Sleeping Giant Ski Area a liquor license — a move ski area managers said would boost its revenue.“We're just so happy and thrilled that the county helped us out,” said the area's executive director, Ham Bryan on Wednesday.In November, after receiving concerns from a small number of county residents about a possible increase in drunk driving and issues with serving alcohol at a family-friendly ski area, commissioners declined to grant the North Fork operation a liquor permit.
But in the wake of that decision, many other residents rallied behind Sleeping Giant and urged the commission to reconsider. The ski area's manager re-applied for a license on Dec. 3, and after the mandatory four weeks of advertising, a second public hearing took place Tuesday.
Unlike the November hearing, where no members of the general public attended, more than two dozen residents showed up for Tuesday's meeting. All who spoke voiced support for giving Sleeping Giant a liquor license.
“I hear you loud and clear today — you're saying yes,” said Commissioner Jill Shockley Siggins, who joined Commissioners Dave Burke and Tim French in reversing their previous opposition to the liquor permit.
The commission chose not to place any restrictions on the permit, trusting Sleeping Giant's assurances that it would serve alcohol responsibly and work toward separating the liquor-serving and youth.
“This is being run by reasonable people,” said Commissioner Bucky Hall, who previously was the lone supporter of the permit.
Commission Chairman Bill Brewer, who was not present at the earlier hearing, attended on Tuesday — despite having suffered a minor heart attack on Friday. Brewer cast a vote in support of the permit, joining a 5-0 decision.
Bryan told commissioners a liquor permit was key to the operation's economic viability.
To date, snow has been relatively scarce at the ski slope. A planned Nov. 27 opening had to be pushed back to Dec. 18, and a lack of snow has prohibited the new west chair lift from opening. That has forced Sleeping Giant managers to charge half-price for lift tickets.
Bryan said the area's business plan projected that alcohol sales would bring in about 8 percent of the ski area's total annual revenue; with the snow troubles, Bryan said that number could be closer to 12 percent this year.
Ann Simpson of Cody — a board member of the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, the non-profit group that operates the ski area — said a Sleeping Giant without a liquor license would be like a football player without pads.
“I think we need this to make it financially viable,” she said.
Cody's Jim Nielson — president of the Recreations Foundation — said that as a non-profit, Sleeping Giant needs every source of income and revenue it can get.
“We're always going to be in fundraising,” he said.
As they did in November, commissioners asked Bryan how the ski area would keep alcohol and children separate in and around the ski lodge.
“There are people that don't want alcohol on the deck or anywhere where there are small children,” said Siggins.
Bryan had previously suggested that the ski lodge's second-floor loft could be sectioned-off area for alcohol consumption.
But on Tuesday, Bryan said the first few weeks of operations showed that the building isn't big enough to dedicate an area to drinkers.
“When we're busy, every nook and cranny is used by various groups,” he said.
Bryan said that many different groups of people — such as moms and dads seeking better views of their skiing children — want access to the loft.
“We don't want to create a bar up there,” he said.
Ideally, said Bryan, managers would like to construct a second building that could better separate youth and alcohol in the future.
Commissioner French, who cited concern over separation in November, said in the weeks since he looked at restaurants where alcohol and children mix, and no longer believed that a similar setting would be a problem for the ski area.
Commissioners discussed the possibility of banning the sale of package liquor at Sleeping Giant — a use allowed under the liquor permit.
“I guess I need to see the justification for selling a six-pack of beer to go after a day of skiing,” said Commissioner Burke.
Bryan said the area really hadn't thought about the possibility of package sales.
“We don't want to create a bar scene,” he said, adding that he envisions the liquor serving as more of “a beer with a burger, a glass of wine with a sandwich.”
At November's hearing, only one comment — a letter opposing the permit — had been received by commissioners. In the weeks leading up to Tuesday's hearing, commissioners said they received comments opposing approval, but said the majority supported liquor at the slope.
“I guess I wonder about so much scrutiny on this liquor license,” said supporter Sharon Miller at the hearing. Other commentors noted that there are a number of other permits granted to North Fork guest ranches and operations — currently 11.
Siggins noted that all county licenses must go through the public hearing process annually, and said there is always scrutiny. Typically, very few licenses generate any comment or protest from the public and, if there are no complaints or issues, are approved with little discussion.
The commission will review all of the county's liquor permits in June — including Sleeping Giant's.
“If it isn't going right, don't renew it,” recommended Jack Skates of Cody, asking commissioners to give the ski area a chance.
The Yellowstone Recreations Foundation board is currently made up of Jim and Jay Nielson, Ann Simpson, Troy Broussard, Commissioner Hall's son Bryant Hall, Rich Peterson, Roy Holm, John Parsons, Paul Prestwich, and Reanne Wolff. Powell Mayor Scott Mangold, Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown, Forward Cody's James Klessens and Sox Freeman are ex-officio board members.