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State seizes more liquor from Yellowstone Club licensee

Posted at 8:56 AM, Jul 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-09 14:04:52-04

HELENA – State officials said Monday they seized another 800 bottles and cans of alcoholic beverages from a Yellowstone Club liquor licensee, as part of an on-going investigation of liquor-law violations by the high-end private vacation club in Big Sky.

The seizure occurred June 25 at a building near the Bozeman International Airport in Belgrade – one day after the state announced a settlement of multiple liquor violations by partnerships connected to the club, that included a $370,000 fine.

A spokesman for the Revenue Department said the booze seized two weeks ago may be from a location that serves Yellowstone Club members that fly into the airport on private jets.

The department declined to elaborate, saying the case remains under investigation. An attorney for the Yellowstone Club didn’t immediately comment on Monday.

The bottles and cans of liquor, wine and beer seized at the airport site two weeks ago apparently were in the possession of H&K Spirits, a partnership whose listed officers are Hans Williamson and John Hinkle, the Revenue Department said.

Hinkle had been the chief financial officer of the Yellowstone Club and Williamson has been a  liquor license manager for the club. As part of the June settlement of the initial violations, the club agreed to remove Williamson “from all location manager and ownership positions.”

Yellowstone Club Liquor
State officials report they seized another 800 bottles and cans of alcoholic beverages from a Yellowstone Club liquor licensee. (MTN News photo)

In the earlier case, Yellowstone Club restaurant-and-bar operators admitted to serving alcohol at two sites at the club without a license, hiding liquor from state investigators in January and storing booze at unlicensed warehouses in or near Bozeman.

The club signed a settlement with the state of those charges June 19, agreeing to the $370,000 fine and suspension of liquor licenses at each of four sites at the club for periods ranging from seven to 20 days.

The state agreed to allow the club to keep liquor licenses at four of its entities, including H&K Spirits, and not to deny an application for a liquor license for two other locales at the Yellowstone Club, the Boot Room and the Buffalo Bar and Grill.

The initial violations stem from an investigation that began when a whistleblower contacted the state in January after state officials had visited the Boot Room and the Buffalo Bar and Grill, which had requested a new liquor license in December 2018.

The whistleblower said club managers had been serving booze at the establishments since they had opened, without a license, and had removed and hidden the alcohol when state Justice Department investigators first visited the sites in mid-January.

Investigators returned a week later and discovered the establishments serving alcohol, and seized 9,000 bottles and cans from the site and warehouses in Bozeman.

In the notice to seize the alcohol from the unlicensed site near the airport two weeks ago, the Revenue Department said anyone with a claim on the booze has until July 30 to request a hearing.

-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News