JACKSON HOLE, WYO \u2013\u00a0Town Council balked yesterday at permitting a transfer of liquor license from the defunct Lift restaurant to Pearl Street Market. In turn, the council also denied renewal of said limbo license for another year while a landing place can be found for it.\r\n\r\nCouncilwoman Hailey Morton Levinson summed up the discussion by agreeing with fellow councilman Jonathan Schechter it was a meeting dominated by liquor talk without actually getting to drink any.\r\n\r\nTransfer of liquor licenses require the approval of town council even though the actual details of the transaction\u2014including financial compensation\u2014are left to private parties. In the case of retail liquor licenses, these private transactions have reportedly included large sums in the neighborhood of $300,000 to $500,000, even when the \u2018sticker price\u2019 of the license is $1,500 when obtained originally from the town.\r\n\r\nRetail liquor licenses are the least restrictive of the various types available to businesses, allowing for the sale and consumption of beer, wine, and spirits both on and off-premise. That is the main reason they are highly coveted.\r\n\r\nIn addition, the value of retail liquor licenses is further bolstered by their scarcity. By statute, the amount available to any municipality is limited on a population-based metric. Jackson has its max, 20 total retail liquor licenses, all currently in circulation.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBucking the trend\r\n\r\nHistorically, transfer approvals of liquor licenses have been rather routine. If no egregious violations or other red flags are found, approval has been pretty much a slam-dunk. But times are changing and so is the council\u2019s inclinations beginning with Jim Stanford, who has insisted during his tenure that liquor licenses should, according to state law, meet the particular desires of the residents of Jackson.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve been consistent about this for six-plus years. An open process is in the public\u2019s interest,\u201d Stanford said at the regular town council meeting Tuesday night. \u201cThis liquor license was originally awarded for a neighborhood Irish pub in 2002. Apparently that\u2019s run its course. It\u2019s no longer there, it is no longer in business. Everything\u2019s been sold off.\u201d\r\n\r\nStanford said it could turn out that Pearl Street Market is the best place to move the retail liquor license but that should be something determined in an open public forum where other businesses also get to make their pitch.\r\n\r\nMayor Pete Muldoon agreed.\r\n\r\n\u201cI do think we should be issuing these licenses for public benefit,\u201d Muldoon said. \u201cThe private transactions are beyond the scope of what we deal with. But I do feel comfortable that nobody\u2019s rights are being violated here. I do think we should hold this license for a while and provide for an opportunity for people that aren\u2019t just sitting on a lot of money.\u201d\r\n\r\nMorton Levinson also concurred, saying, \u201cThis is not a knock on Pearl Street Market, but I would like to see it opened up to the whole town as well.\u201d\r\n\r\nShe also reminded the council of an August 2017 free-for-all when some 14 businesses vied for three available Bar & Grill liquor licenses.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nNo soup for you\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s not you, it\u2019s us,\u201d was the message the council conveyed to Pearl Street Market who thought they had a private deal worked out with Lift (dba Tastebuds LLC) to buy the liquor license from them.\r\n\r\nRepresentatives from Pearl Street said they were planning a new retail space dedicated to packaged beer, wine and spirits.\r\n\r\n\u201cIn the winter months, Pearl Street Market turns away 1 or 2 of every 5 customers looking for a bottle of wine, six pack of beer, etc. In the summer months, it's easily 4 out of every 5,\u201d stated PSM part-owner Mike Reid in an email to the town council.\r\n\r\nAnother loser in the nixed transfer is Jerry Lundquist. As owner of the property Lift was on (and 43 North before them), it was Lundquist who actually held the retail liquor license. He transferred it to the lessee Thomas Mahin with the understanding it would revert back to him and his limited liability company Longitude Ventures in the event Lift went out of business.\r\n\r\nNo dice, said the council back in November 2017 when it denied the transfer back to Lundquist. Lundquist\u2019s Plan B was to work out a deal with Pearl Street Market to at least get a six-figure paycheck out of the limbo\u2019d license.\r\n\r\nNo dice again.\r\n\r\nCouncilors were willing to consider a liquor license transfer for an ownership change or perhaps a location change but not both.\r\n\r\nThe council voted unanimously to deny transfer of the retail liquor license to Pearl Street Market.\r\n\r\nRenewal of Tastebuds liquor license also shot down\r\n\r\nThe next order of business for the council last night was to renew (or not) all the liquor licenses in town as part of regular annual paperwork. All were renewed despite some minor noncompliance issues but Tastebuds was pulled out for discussion as a stand-alone agenda item.\r\n\r\nStanford again began the discussion saying he didn\u2019t understand why a renewal of a retail liquor license for Tastebuds was even on the agenda seeing as Lift is gone and plans are for the property to be converted into high-end condominiums.\r\n\r\n\u201cLift is closed and its assets sold off. There doesn\u2019t seem to be any reason to renew this license,\u201d Stanford said. \u201cIn 2002, this license was issued for a neighborhood Irish pub. It\u2019s been reported the property has sold and there are plans for redevelopment. It\u2019s merely prolonging the inevitable for another year. I have not heard from anyone that there is even an intention of reopening.\u201d\r\n\r\nMorton Levinson agreed. \u201cThis license was issued in 2002 and we are now 17 years later. The business is not operating. I know in the past we have easily voted to park it, but for those applications there were indications that business would open again. But I don\u2019t see that here. And even so, 17 years later I don\u2019t know that the residents want to see this sort of business there now.\u201d\r\n\r\nArne Jorgenson admitted to being new to the council but said it was his understanding and experience as an outsider that renewing a \u2018parked\u2019 liquor license was a fairly benign order of business for the council.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy perception of how these discussions have always played out is applicants that have for one reason or another been forced into a nonoperational standpoint, they been given a year to do [find a new use for it]. I\u2019m comfortable to renew this and let that year play out,\u201d Jorgenson said.\r\n\r\nFellow freshman elected Schechter said he found it particularly telling that no one from Tastebuds was on-hand that evening.\r\n\r\n\u201cI find it striking that no one from Tastebuds is here. If they were that eager to get it renewed I would hope that they would have the desire to come and plead their case. I\u2019m taken aback by that,\u201d Schechter said.\r\n\r\nAccording to town staff, numerous calls and invitations were made to Mahin, who did not take the opportunity to respond.\r\n\r\nMuldoon concurred it was noteworthy that Mahin, \u201cis not here tonight, nor has he demonstrated any interest in securing the liquor license.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe council voted 1-4 to deny the renewal of Tastebuds\u2019 retail liquor license. Pending any reconsideration by the council at its next meeting, appeal by the applicant, or legal action taken in District Court, the license will revert back to the town for reissuance at a later date. More than one councilmember expressed no hurry to dole it out any time soon.