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Yellowstone Club settles liquor license violations, agrees to $370,000 fine

Posted at 6:40 PM, Jun 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-24 20:40:54-04

HELENA — Operators at the private, high-end Yellowstone Club in Big Sky have admitted to multiple state liquor-license violations at club restaurants and bars and agreed to pay a $370,000 penalty, as part of a settlement with the state.

The settlement, signed last week by state revenue officials and a club attorney, said the state also will suspend liquor licenses for the club’s affected establishments later this year, for periods ranging from seven to 20 days.

In a statement Monday, the club said its liquor-license holders “accept full responsibility” for the violations and will comply with state liquor laws and rules, going forward.

“We thank the Department of Revenue for working with us to resolve all of the outstanding issues, and finalize this settlement agreement acceptable to all parties,” it added.

MTN Newsreported the alleged violations in May, four months after state liquor inspectors seized 9,000 bottles and cans of liquor, beer and wine from club facilities that had been operating without a license.

The state confiscated the alcohol after a surprise inspection Jan. 24 at the Boot Room and Buffalo Bar & Grill, that revealed they were serving alcohol without a license — after having applied for a license two months earlier.

State revenue officials said the bar/restaurant operators hid the liquor off-site during an initial inspection a week earlier, and that club operators had been storing liquor for the club at unlicensed warehouses west of Bozeman for as long as seven years.

Prior to the initial inspection, liquor at the two establishments applying for the new license had been loaded into U-Haul trucks and transported to a nearby parking garage, the state said.

Also Monday, the state revealed that it has proposed revoking the respective licenses for five alcoholic-beverage distributors in Bozeman, Helena and Billings, for delivering beverages for the Yellowstone Club to unlicensed warehouses near Bozeman. Hearings for the alleged violations have not been scheduled.

In April, state revenue officials proposed revoking alcoholic-beverage licenses for several bars and restaurants at the exclusive Yellowstone Club, as a penalty for the violations. The two sides then negotiated a settlement that was signed last Wednesday.

The Yellowstone Club is a private residential and vacation club in Big Sky, with its own ski resort and golf course. Initiation fees are reportedly in the six figures and homes start at several million dollars.

Details of the settlement this month include:

  • The $370,000 penalty will be paid by the four partnerships that operate the restaurants and bars at the club.
  • The establishments applying for the new license agreed to remove the manager/owner responsible for the violations. Separate on-site managers will be employed for each of the four licenses.
  • Each of the four licenses will be suspended for time periods later this year, ranging from seven days to 20 days each, depending on the establishment. The state will provide public notice of the suspensions two days before the suspensions begin.
  • Employees who serve alcohol at the establishments and their supervisors and managers must undergo and pass state-approved alcohol-sales and server training.
  • The establishments can recover the beer, wine and liquor seized in January, at their expense. Any spoiled product must be destroyed by the owners, without compensation from the state.

The other Yellowstone Club facilities supplied by the warehouses include the Rainbow Lounge, the Timberline Lounge, the Base Lodge and a golf course facility.

Story by Mike Dennison, MTN News