River Rock seeks permission to expand alcohol service

  • PC: River Rock casino bartender Dustin Simpson of Santa Rosa mixes non-alcoholic drinks, from left, virgin mary's and near beer for casino patrons. The casino as of yet does not have a liquor license, making the bar somewhat unusable.
    1/30/2005: B7: River Rock Casino bartender Dustin Simpson of Santa Rosa mixes non-alcoholic drinks for casino patrons. The casino's application for a liquor license was rejected in September.

The Indian tribe that owns River Rock Casino wants to change an agreement with Sonoma County that covers liquor service, road access and $75 million in mitigation fees.

While the county appears to favor most of the proposed changes, a key county leader said Wednesday he's against any expansion of liquor service at the Alexander Valley casino.

"That would be a non-starter for me," said Mike McGuire, the county supervisor who represents Alexander Valley. "Any expansion of liquor service would not be consistent with the agreement."

The Dry Creek Pomo tribe also wants to postpone some mitigation payments and the construction of an emergency access road to the casino. Supervisors will consider those changes next Tuesday.

River Rock chief executive David Fendrick has told investment analysts the casino wants to open additional bars and serve alcohol on the gaming floor starting later this year.

But under a 2008 agreement with the county, the tribe can't serve liquor on the casino floor. Guests may purchase drinks at a nearby restaurant or bar and bring them to the casino, however.

The agreement also limits liquor sales to wine and beer between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays and halts sales at midnight except for Friday and Saturday nights and the nights before holidays.

The county pushed for the alcohol limits after the tribe applied for a state liquor license for the casino. County leaders and Alexander Valley neighbors said they were worried that too much drinking would lead to accidents on Highway 128, the twisting, two-lane road that serves the area.

But opponents later acknowledged that River Rock was entitled to a liquor license under state law. The county dropped its opposition after reaching the compromise with the tribe.

The deal allows for renegotiation of the liquor rules three years after its adoption. The three-year anniversary was in March.

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