Helena City Commission denies Gulch casino request

Nolan Lister

The Helena City Commission denied a conditional use permit to Windbag Saloon owner Matt Schmechel to operate a casino next door to his popular Last Chance Gulch bar and restaurant.

The business is permitted to operate five or fewer gaming machines, but the city commissioners’ decision during Monday evening’s regular meeting prohibits the business from operating more than five machines.

The application detailed a plan to develop a 4,000-square-foot “upscale lounge and bar” referred to as “The Windbag Nextdoor” in the adjacent space formerly occupied by Ghost Art Gallery with an interior connection to the existing restaurant.

The application also states the gaming machines were to be located in the rear of the new space and “not completely visible from the lounge area and not visible at all from the walking mall.”

The application likened the proposed set-up to that of peers Silver Star and The Brewhouse with “gaming machines discreetly placed in separate rooms or the back of the space…”

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Although, City Planner Michael Alvarez said neither of those businesses sought or needed a conditional use permit.

A large contingent of vocal opponents to the proposal

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