The status of a liquor license at the Olive Glenn Golf Course and Country Club remains in limbo despite a request the city return to the golf course a retail liquor license now held by Stampede Bar & Grill owners Steve and Laurie Swan.
A Tuesday city council public hearing on the transfer request attended by about 20 people revealed few new details. Because the notice had been advertised, council members proceeded with a hearing. They postponed taking action, however, due to ongoing litigation.
City clerk Cindy Baker opened the hearing by saying since the notice was published, both parties involved had filed complaints in court.
In December the Swans filed a complaint in Park County 5th Judicial District Court demanding $300,000 from the golf course board for allegedly infringing on their lease. The board filed a counterclaim seeking summary judgment.
Oral arguments for summary judgement, in which the judge applies the law to the facts presented in the case, are set for July 22. Judge Bill Simpson has said his decision on whether to make a summary judgment will be made in September.
If an award of summary judgment or some type of pretrial dismissal is not made, the lawsuit would proceed to trial. That could put off a resolution until next spring.
On June 18 the city council renewed the liquor license application submitted by the Swans with all other city renewals.
“Even if approved tonight, (the license) could not be active until Aug. 30,” Baker said.
A 30-day renewal period following the Aug. 1 effective date for all renewed liquor licenses is required, she said.
City attorney Scott Kolpitcke briefly reviewed the current situation.
“Typically, when a transfer is sought, the current and prospective owners are in agreement to the transfer,” he said, explaining the heart of the lawsuits is about a lease between the Swans and golf course board that spells out conditions under which the Swans are to give back the liquor license.
On Nov. 1, 2017, the country club leased its restaurant to the Swans and agreed to transfer the liquor license for their use specifically in the restaurant. In February 2018 the city council endorsed the liquor license transfer between entities.
At the time, councilwoman Karen Ballinger voiced surprise Olive Glenn board members would agree to the transfer.
“But I guess they’ve protected themselves if it doesn’t work out,” she said.
Responding to her comment, Steve Swan said the lease document includes contingencies to ensure the golf course wouldn’t permanently lose its liquor license. In the lease, the Swans agree it would revert back to Olive Glenn should the couple default or terminate the contract.
At issue now is whether the lease has been voluntarily ended or an eviction occurred.
The Swans closed down the Stampede Bar & Grill on June 16, saying the state health inspector shut down the kitchen due to roof leakage and plumbing issues. In addition, a test swab taken from the roof showed significant mold, creating an unsanitary food environment. The inspection was done at the Swans’ request.
But the golf course board is arguing they left voluntarily and therefore terms of the restaurant lease say the Swans must return the license.
At the council meeting, Mary Reed, a Cody attorney representing the golf course board, referenced a letter telling the Swans they were responsible for an April 3 kitchen fire and should therefore leave the country club restaurant.
The letter written by an attorney was not an eviction, she said. An eviction is a legal action and there was no court order for them to leave.
She argued the Swans voluntarily left based on a request in April from Olive Glenn, and they no longer serve alcohol there, which is why the space is now empty, she added.
Reed said Olive Glenn has held a liquor license since the 1980s and the country club’s roughly 200 members are best served if the golf course board owns the liquor license.
“We ask that you grant this transfer based on the fact the license is tied to an empty facility and the Swans voluntarily vacated it,” she said.
The Swans argued they were indeed evicted.
Laurie Swan read the attorney’s letter word for word and then said the accusation saying they were responsible for the kitchen fire is not true.
The state health department shut down the kitchen because the Olive Glenn board neglected its facility and would not address issues, she said.
“We feel the shutdown was due to one person’s vendetta,” Laurie Swan continued, referencing former board president Terry Skinner.
Furthermore, she accused Olive Glenn of illegally serving liquor after the city had transferred the liquor license to them.
Teresa Piper spoke in support of the Swans, saying, “I saw the difference Steve and Laurie made. They brought life back to that restaurant.”
She tearfully claimed responsibility for the fire, saying she was cleaning the grill, had walked away and when she returned the fire had started.
Olive Glenn member Kim Brice took the podium to praise her friends.
“Anyone who came to the club the last couple of years has seen the change,” she said. “(Steve and Laurie) put their heart and soul and money into that restaurant. They took over and they did an incredible job.”
Mayor Matt Hall concluded the public hearing by saying the city will wait to act on the transfer request until the council knows the court outcome.
“Once that’s resolved we’ll put the item on the agenda,” he said.