Bill Would Allow 24/7 Deadwood Bars

A bill that recently passed the South Dakota House of Representatives by a 36-33 vote would allow 24-hour liquor sales in bars in Deadwood hotels with 10 or more rooms. Saloon owners said the measure favors large casino resorts. A Senate committee will take up the measure on February 26.

The South Dakota House of Representatives recently voted 36-33 to approve HB 1123 which would allow bars in Deadwood hotels with 10 or more rooms to serve liquor 24 hours a day to coincide with gambling operations’ hours. The Senate State Affairs Committee will consider the bill on February 26.

The Deadwood Resorts Association organized the bill on behalf of the area’s major casino hotels. The group’s lobbyist, Roger Tellinghuisen, said, “We’re presenting this as part of the different approaches to increase the interest, the enthusiasm about coming to Deadwood. It’s about making Deadwood a destination. We don’t believe additional liquor sales, amounting to five more hours a day, will change people’s perceptions of Deadwood but it allows us to be competitive with other markets.”

Tellinghusien added the association asked bar owners if they wanted to be included in the measure, but most declined. “So we said, `Fine, we’ll package it for hotels.’ We also believed it would be more palatable to legislators,” Tellinghusien said.

Louie Lalonde, co-owner and general manager of Saloon No. 10, Deadwood’s highest grossing liquor seller, said the proposed law gives casino resorts preferential treatment. “It basically devalues Main Street businesses. This law should allow everyone to compete on a level playing field with the large casino resorts and it doesn’t. It is being presented in a way that doesn’t include everybody up and down the street. It worries me, with empty storefronts in Deadwood, that it would discourage people from investing in a business that didn’t have that competitive edge.”

Toby Keehn, owner and general manager of Mustang Sally’s sports bar, said he wrote his legislators expressing his opposition to the bill. “I am terribly opposed to it. It’s not that I’m against 24-hour drinking, but as far as it only being for the big places in town, in my opinion, is wrong. It automatically devalues any building in town that doesn’t have hotel rooms.”