Cripple Creek launches round-the-clock cocktail service


Gaming town to become first to provide a district-wide 24/7 bar

Rick Langenberg

Forget the words “last call” in Cripple Creek for booze and all alcoholic beverages, as the town’s gaming community has officially rolled the dice with the final approval of 24/7 cocktail service inside most casinos.

With this action that began July 17, Cripple Creek will become the first community in Colorado that offers round-the-clock bar activity for nearly every prime business in the main part of town. Common consumption drinking activity was launched late last week by the Triple Crown casinos (Midnight Rose, McGills and Brass Ass) and the Century casino.

And sometime this week, the 24-hour party will extend to the Wildwood, Bronco Billy’s and Double Eagle casinos. However, the serving of alcoholic beverages will be restricted to the premises of the participating businesses and won’t occur on the sidewalks or streets of Cripple Creek

The Cripple Creek City Council, with no opposition or concerns, okayed a bevy of permits last week, setting the stage for promotional associations and common consumption areas for virtually every casino business in town. The only exceptions are the Colorado Grande and Johnny Nolon’s, which didn’t submit permit requests. In order to receive this common consumption area designation, participating casinos had to have two liquor licenses, per promotional association. As a result, several of the casinos had to get new liquor licenses approved in the 11th hour to make the process work.

The council action occurred in a routine fashion, as city leaders have previously endorsed the measure as a way to stimulate commerce. No residents or business leaders voiced any opposition. The main concerns previously cited dealt with not allowing the drinking activity to occur on the public sidewalks or streets.

City officials don’t see the round-the-clock cocktail service as a problem, and tout the effort as a way to help kick-start the struggling industry, which has been plagued by Hwy. 24 closures and more competition from Black Hawk. “It makes perfect sense for Cripple Creek,” said City Administrator Ray DuBois in a previous meeting, when the entertainment district was formed.

Surprisingly, the new change, prompted by a state law that permits the bypassing of Colorado liquor laws by establishing local entertainment districts, has been well-received by area law enforcement authorities. Cripple Creek Police Chief Mike Rulo has maintained that the new entertainment district has tough enforcement procedures in place and the success of the program hinges on good management

A few towns in Colorado, including Black Hawk, do allow extended alcohol service for certain establishments. But no community in Colorado to date permits the wide-spread, round-the-clock bar action as what now is permitted in Cripple Creek.

Strong support by local casinos

The action is heavily endorsed by the local casino industry, which has strongly lobbied for the change.

“We’re thrilled to offer an exciting new way to play in Cripple Creek,” said Laura Long, deputy director of the Cripple Creek Gaming Association, in a press release. “Whether you’re into slots, poker blackjack, craps or roulette, you and your friends can enjoy a more authentic Vegas-like experience in Cripple Creek. The fun doesn’t end at 2 a.m.”

Long and casino operators believe the new extended liquor laws, which will match the 24-hour period that gaming is now allowed, will help the industry serve many employees who often work unusual “graveyard shifts” in the casino industry and in other service jobs. In addition, they have cited a public safety factor, with many gamblers frantically guzzling down drinks at 2 a.m. and then driving home.

“This will help us,” said Marc Murphy, general manager and co-owner of Bronco Billy’s. “It makes us into more of a traditional gaming town.”

Some industry experts also hope this change could open the door slightly for more overnight stays. For years, the town has wanted to develop more of an image as a destination area.

It’s still unsure how the new round-the-clock bar activity will impact the local industry this summer. Most casino operators, though, are bullishly optimistic about this change. They see it as a way to give the industry a more Las Vegas or New Orleans-feel and to provide the town with an extra media blitz, since this is a first for any Colorado town. “It is a branding issue,” said Long.

More importantly, they are hoping that the summer of 2015 will alter a losing hand. And already, a few positive signs have occurred, with overall betting volume in Cripple Creek increasing for the first time since the advent of the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012. Plus, last week Finance Director Paul Harris reported a healthy surge in total betting devices, courtesy of the Bronco Billy’s expansion into the former Gold Rush casino area.

The development of new common consumption areas is part of a total revitalization plan for Cripple Creek, which also included a $5 million facelift for the main street, according to local leaders.