Wyoming Downs attorney Traci Lacock addresses the Mills City Council at Citiy Hall Nov. 14. (Rhonda Schulte, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — City of Mills liquor license holders with management issues such as excessive fighting or over-serving may soon face financial penalties if the Mills City Council passes a new law meant to address alcohol-related problems.

The proposed ordinance came about after a spike in City of Mills police and emergency medical service calls to the Beacon Club at 4100 W. Yellowstone, Mills.

On Nov. 14, the Mills City Council voted 5–0 to pass an ordinance on the first of three readings that will establish fines for non-compliant city liquor license holders. A copy of the ordinance was not available at the meeting. Discussion indicated a portion of the ordinance approved Tuesday will undergo amending before second reading, likely on Nov. 28.

The ordinance is based on City of Casper code with slight modifications, Mills City Attorney Pat Holscher said during a Nov. 14 council pre-meeting work session. 

The Mills City Council voted in June to transfer the bar’s liquor license from the Beacon Corporation and West Winds Rentals to new owner Wyoming Downs. At that time, Traci Lacock, legal advisor for Wyoming Downs, told the council the new owners will operate the business with minimal changes, and Wyoming Downs plans to keep the same management and staff.

At the regular council meeting Tuesday, Mills Police Chief Bryan Preciado told City Council members that in the past three months, since the club changed ownership Aug. 1, Mills police have already responded to 43 incidents. During the prior year, calls to the Beacon Club totaled 83.

Preciado said police were called to the Beacon for a stabbing on Friday, Nov. 10. He described other incidents as a shooting, “a lot of assaults,” public intoxication and “a lot of alcohol-related” calls.

People are unconscious in the parking lot and are beat up, he said.  

Often calls for an ambulance coincide with police incidents. 

City of Mills Fire Chief Wil Gay said in the three and a half months since the Beacon Club changed ownership, dispatch recorded five calls for emergency medical services to the Beacon Club. In comparison, EMS responded 10 times over the previous 12 months —Aug. 1, 2022, to July 31, 2023. Two of the 10 calls were fire alarms, seven were medical and one a crash. 

While he did not provide details, Gay said those types of calls were generally associated with police department calls.

Other than medicals received at 2:27 p.m. and 4:08 p.m. prior to August, all others occurred between 10:16 p.m. and 4:04 a.m., according to the fire chief’s EMS incident log.

“Anything after 10 p.m. is likely a fight, Gay said. 

Mayor Leah Juarez said there’s “clearly an over-serving issue” at the Beacon Club.

According to Juarez and Preciado, Mills police are doing walk-throughs at the club late nights every Friday and Saturday.  

Juarez said she recently went to the club to observe as well.

She described a hostile feeling as soon as she walked into the bar, and blamed bouncers for an aggressive atmosphere.

“We’re going to start with fining these establishments who can’t manage patrons within their businesses,” she said. 

At the Tuesday council meeting, Lacock, representing Wyoming Downs, assured the council that security is a top priority and outlined steps Wyoming Downs is taking to address problems at its various locations. 

Solutions include an immediate reporting system for staff, cameras in parking lots and inside buildings, additional training for bouncers and increased pay to hire those more qualified and “not retaining some folks.” In addition, all staff receive Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS, which is an industry standard for alcohol server training.

Juarez said she appreciated Wyoming Downs taking the issue seriously, but questioned the effectiveness of some proposed actions.

“We need to resolve this [problem] way before you’re looking at cameras or before people are shot at or stabbed,” she said. 

“I completely agree,” Lacock said, adding that all staff are TIPS trained.

“I recommend they go through the training again,” Juarez said.

If not re-trained, the mayor recommended holding staff more accountable for the training they do have. 

Expressing gratitude for the city communication, Lacock said Wyoming Downs will continue to work hard to turn the management issue around.