Flathead Cabaret Licenses Shuffled

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – Two restaurants here, Bulmann’s Wood Fired Pizza and Taco del Sol, were among the new winners for beer and wine licenses after the state Revenue Department ruled out some preferences claimed by unsuccessful applicants for past licenses.

Director Dan Bucks said department officials determined, after a legal review, that previously unsuccessful applicants could use a preference only in areas where they failed to get a license before. They couldn’t use preferences in other areas.

As a result, seven applicants in five areas moved up to gain the right to apply for the licenses, commonly known as cabaret licenses. However, seven previous unofficial winners from last week lost their preferences and dropped out of the running.

The department last week conducted lotteries for 124 new licenses in 19 areas around Montana. In all, 529 people or businesses applied. Some applied in many areas and some families had multiple members apply.

Applicants could use two kinds of preferences to move up in line: one for restaurants open at least a year and the other for applicants who lost in previous lotteries.

The Pescado Blanco, a Mexican restaurant in Whitefish featured in the Beacon, benefited from the ruling. Unsuccessful last week, its owners now have the right to apply for a cabaret license, and they intend to do just that.

“It was quite a roller coaster ride for me,” said David Lewis, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Jennifer.

“With the way it’s set up here, it’s good to be armed with the same weapons as my competition,” Lewis told the Lee Newspapers in a story published Tuesday.

Without a license, the Lewises anticipated closing their restaurant this fall.

“For a restaurant, it’s basically a do-or-die situation,” Jennifer Lewis said in June. “Selling alcohol won’t make a restaurant, but not having a license can break a restaurant.”

She approached Sen. Dan Weinberg, D-Whitefish, about the problem, and he sponsored the successful bill expanding the cabaret licenses.

For every winner after the ruling, there was also a loser.

Gary G. Evje of West Yellowstone lost his preference and his right to licenses in Billings and Bozeman, although his wife, Andrea Withner, won one in Billings.

Evje said he was hoping to get licenses so his son, who owns Mambo Italiano in Whitefish, could open similar restaurants in Billings, Bozeman and Helena.

“I’m more disappointed for my son,” he said.

Evje said there shouldn’t be quotas for restaurant beer and wine licenses. His solution: let any restaurant owner who wants one fill out a form, pay the state $20,000-$25,000 and receive a license.

Instead, Evje’s Billings license went to Hot Grills Inc., and his Bozeman one went to Bridger Canyon Coffee Inc.

James and Ellen Mary H. Beck of Bozeman emerged as the biggest losers after the Revenue Department threw out their preference.

Both Becks had drawn licenses in the Helena/East Helena and Whitefish/Columbia Falls areas, but lost all of them after the ruling.

The Becks’ two Helena/East Helena licenses went to Bullman’s Wood Fired Pizza Inc., and Khurry Enterprises Inc., owner of Taco del Sol. The couple’s two Whitefish/Columbia Falls licenses went to Pescado Blanco and Tammy Luken.

In Kalispell, Ellen Mary H. Beck lost her bid for a license because of the ruling, while James Beck went from the top ranking to the sixth ranking, but is still eligible to apply for a license.

Here is a list from the Montana Department of Revenue showing changes in the rankings of winners for restaurant beer and wine licenses. These changes were made after the department removed certain preferences claimed that were determined not to be allowed.

Here are the changes, by area:

BILLINGS:

Remove: Gary G. Evje.

Add: Hot Grills, Inc.

BOZEMAN:

Remove: Gary G. Evje

Add: Bridger Canyon Coffee, Inc.

Helena and East Helena:

Remove: James Beck and Ellen Mary H. Beck.

Add: Bullman’s Wood Fired Pizza, Inc. and Khurry Enterprises, LLC.

KALISPELL:

Remove: James Beck (as ranking No. 1) and Ellen Mary H. Beck.

Add: James Beck (as ranking No. 6) and Robert J. McCauley.

WHITEFISH and COLUMBIA FALLS:

Remove: James Beck and Ellen Mary H. Beck.

Add: Pescado Blanco and Tammy Luken.

No changes were made in the lottery drawing order in any of the following quota areas: Darby, Ennis, Eureka and Rexburg, Hamilton and Pinesdale, Hot Springs, Missoula, Philipsburg, St. Ignatius, Stevensville, Twin Bridges, Virginia City, West Yellowstone.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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