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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday — February 18, 2004


Liquor license bill
may aid Ketchum inn

Express Staff Writer

The Idaho Senate’s leadership committee last week endorsed legislation that would allow city councils of small towns to issue new liquor licenses in excess of those that exist through the state’s population-driven quota.

The committee on Wednesday, Feb. 11, advanced Senate Bill 1252, a bill that could greatly benefit a Ketchum developer planning to build an approximately 85,000-square-foot hotel in the city’s downtown core.

The bill proposes to amend existing liquor-license law to allow cities with a population of less than 5,000 residents to issue a new license to the owners or operators of a minimum 60,000-square-foot conference and lodging facility with at least 60 guest rooms. The facility must be built after July 1, 2004, and must have a minimum taxable value of $15 million.

The bill would allow developer Brian Barsotti to acquire a liquor license from the state if he completes construction of his planned 80-room Bald Mountain Lodge, a luxury hotel proposed for a parcel at the southern entrance to Ketchum.

The development—which would cover an entire city block at the site of the former Bald Mountain Lodge motor inn—is proposed to include a 3,800 square-foot conference room.

Currently, Idaho law generally allows incorporated cities to issue one liquor license for each 1,500 residents or fraction thereof. Some cities, through various loopholes, have more licenses than provided for in the population quota.

State Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, said he is in support of the bill.

"It’s going to be good for the travel and tourism industry," he said. "We need more hotels."

Ketchum Planning Director Harold Moniz said the bill could have a "bigger impact" on Ketchum than simply making the Bald Mountain Lodge a more viable project. He noted that it could also "bode well" for Sun Valley Co., which would have the option of obtaining a liquor license if it decided to ever build a hotel in the Ketchum city limits.

Moniz noted that liquor licenses in Ketchum have become valuable commodities. Purchasing an existing license on the open market would almost certainly require a six-figure payment that could approach $500,000, he said.

Any new licenses issued through the new provision in the bill would not be transferable to other parties or businesses.

Stennett said the Senate would likely vote on the bill before the end of the week.

To be approved, the bill will have to be passed by the Senate, House State Affairs Committee and the House of Representatives, before being signed into law by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.