By Rocío Hernández
Popular student bar and grill, The Wolf Den, no longer has the authority to sell hard alcohol on its premises.
City of Reno officials delivered an order last Thursday, March 5 that will stop The Wolf Den from selling hard liquor. The sports bar and grill had 24 hours to clear all alcohol, except beer and wine, from the building.
The order follows The Wolf Den’s denied request on Wednesday, March 4 to amend its special use permit to allow for liquor sales.
The Wolf Den has been operating under a 1996 SUP that they obtained from the preceding business, the Twisted Chimney Coffee House, which limits it from selling any alcohol other than beer and wine. However, in 2010, the Twisted Chimney was granted a dining room alcoholic privileged business license by the city, which contradicted the SUP and allowed it to serve a full range of alcoholic beverages.
According to the bar’s representative Mike Railey, when The Wolf Den took over operations, the owners assumed that liquor service was allowed.
The Wolf Den renewed its liquor license every three months and the discrepancy remained undetected until Oct. 28, when the bar was issued a Notice of Violation that reminded the business owner of their original limitation set by their SUP.
After Washoe County Planning commissioners unanimously ruled to revert back to the restrictions set in place by their SUP, the discrepancy was corrected through the cease and desist order, as it required The Wolf Den to comply with the corrective action.
The Wolf Den is known for its drink specials such as Thirsty Thursdays. According to testimonies from University of Nevada, Reno officials and sophomore Zach Tucker, some of the bar’s advertisements and sales promote binge drinking. Associate Dean of Students Marcelo Vazquez brought to the planning commission meeting past Wolf Den filers that advertised all you can drink $10 specials for vodka, whiskey and jungle juice.
Charles Clement, assistant director of UNR Residence Life Student Conduct/Safety, and his staff has witnessed first hand students who have come back to the residence hall after a visit to The Wolf Den. Some of these students have been recorded with blood alcohol levels greater than .3 and have had their residence hall license terminated. One underage student, Madison who blew a .318 BAC, informed the residential life staff that she was able to get access to alcohol by handing the money to the bartender.
“This is not two or three beers,” Clement said. “This is … alcohol abuse.”
Clement later informed the planning commission that residence hall staff members have encountered intoxicated underage students that self-reported returning from parties, but not from other bars. According to Railey, The Wolf Den did not receive notices about the incidents Clement reported to the commission.
However, he said the bar has taken it upon itself to find new methods to decrease underage drinking. In his opening statement, Railey made it known that The Wolf Den has purchased an ID scanner to catch underage customers attempting to purchase alcohol and mentioned that an underage student with a fake ID was recently stopped. The business does have security at the door as well as security cameras.
Railey said that underage drinking is a concern for the business, but argued that businesses such as Wal-Mart are not blamed for having items shoplifters want to steal.
“I think it’s easy to blame a bar for underage drinking,” Railey said. “I think The Wolf Den is committed to doing whatever they can to curve underage drinking, but there needs to be some accountability on the part of the underage drinkers, realizing that they are breaking the law by doing that, using fake IDs, that sort of thing.”
After hearing testimonies in favor and opposed to The Wolf Den, the commission recommended the bar representative come back and appeal for a liquor amendment after six months with a track record that proves they have made significant changes to combat underage drinking. They asked the bar to show that it can be a good partner to the university by eliminating promotional advertisement associated with binge drinking and further use of on-site security and the ID scanner.
Tucker, who spoke in opposition to the business, viewed the commission decision as a good first step toward eliminating risky drinking behavior.
“I believe that a cultural change is necessary on campus and one of the things we can do is change the environment in which we operate on campus,” Tucker said. “The truth is that irresponsible business practices harbor short term risks such as alcohol poisoning, DUI and general debauchery, as well as unseen long term effects for the students, such as increased risk for developing the disease of alcoholism. The decision limits the ease at which this behavior occurs.”
Rocío Hernández can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @rociohdz19.