Natrona County Commission Tables Liquor License Request Again
The tight end in American football plays offense as a blocker and a receiver.
However, the owners of a new bar and grill -- "Mile High Tight Ends" -- once again were blocked from receiving a retail liquor license from the Natrona County Commission at its meeting Tuesday.
Whether Jesse and Tony MacMillan receive that license depends on what happens May 2, because the Commission tabled their request for the second time in as many meetings.
The MacMillans made their pitch again to the commissioners, several of whom went on offense about Tony's long-time boss Sonny Pilcher, former owner of Racks Gentlemen's (aka "strip") Club whose county liquor license was not renewed. Tony bartended at Racks for 10 years and he also has a catering business.
"We're not a strip club," Tony insisted.
They intend their bar and grill to be a smaller version of the defunct Sidelines bar -- another Pilcher business -- on Wilkins Circle.
Some commissioners and people who spoke during the public hearing brought up his name repeatedly and characterized him as a questionable businessman, especially with Racks. (In 2014 when Pilcher owned Sidelines, he pleaded guilty to a federal tax crime and was sentenced to one year in federal prison. In 2015, he filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection, and the total he owed creditors amounted to nearly $6 million.)
Sherri Martin opposed the liquor license.
Martin worked at the Casper Re-Entry Center and now works at the Wyoming Rescue Mission, and from her experience knew a lot of people who were familiar with Racks, and urged the commissioners to look hard at the history.
"We know there was more than stripping," Martin said. "We know there was drug trafficking."
Some commissioners talked about giving a former employee of Pilcher a second chance, but she wasn't buying it.
The commissioners need to look at the track record of Pilcher-related businesses, Martin said, adding that a lot of what happened at Racks' was like what happened at the long-gone Tokyo Massage by the airport.
The MacMillans insisted Pilcher will have nothing to do with Mile High Tight Ends in financing or management.
But a couple of commissioners had a rough time believing that because Pilcher accompanied Tony during a walk-through of the building on Tuesday at 1650 English Ave.
MacMillan responded that Pilcher was there only as an advisor about how to set up the restaurant.
Some commissioners, referring to the bar and grill's obvious "Tight Ends" double entendre, wondered about the MacMillans' real motives.
Commissioner Peter Nicolaysen held up a copy of the menu and said some of the selections had sexually suggestive names of food items.
A question also arose about employees' attire.
Tony responded that the employees' sports-themed uniforms will be modest, adding people see more skin at a swimming pool.
But he added it will be geared toward men. "Sexuality sells."
Commission Steve Freel, the most outspoken skeptic, rhetorically asked how many women would just drop everything for a night out at a place that the MacMillans' describe.
"This is going to be a sexually oriented business," Freel said.
Commissioner Dallas Laird asked Tony if he would be willing to sign a statement stating Mile High Tight Ends will never be a strip club, to which he responded, "yes."
Earlier in the meeting commissioner Jim Milne asked a similar question, and Deputy County Attorney Charmaine Reed said such a statement would not be enforceable, but Laird responded those sorts of strictures have been applied before to licenses.
The commissioners wrangled with what some perceived as the heir apparent to Racks and whether they should make a decision based on who the MacMillan's know.
Laird made a motion to table the motion for the license, then withdrew it.
Nicolaysen said he wanted to give the MacMillans the benefit of the doubt.
Laird said the MacMillans already have put a lot of money in Mile High Tight Ends and have met the statutory requirements. "I think he could have picked a better name."
Milne told them, "I want you to know how concerned we are. ... concerned you'll fall back on to past practices."
North said nobody wants another strip club and if the MacMillans break their trust with the community their business is over.
Freel again voiced his skepticism.
"I do not like where this is going," he said.
Pilcher must be nowhere, Freel said. "If Sonny Pilcher gets a penny it's over."
At the end, a commissioner moved to approve the license, but the motion died.
The commissioners then moved to table the matter to their next meeting on May 2.