By LENORE RUTHERFORD
The state's Alcoholic Beverage Control board has given the OK, but whether or when liquor will flow at the Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne is unclear.
"We want to review all of the conditions of the liquor license, make sure our staff is fully trained for safety and make sure the tribe is comfortable with what we end up doing," said tribal Chairman Kevin Day. He estimated that a final decision on serving alcohol is at least a month away.
The tribe got word Friday afternoon that despite 190 protest letters written to the ABC, the casino on North Tuolumne Road may serve liquor between 9 a.m. and midnight.
Frances Connolly of Tuolumne, one of the letter-writing campaign's organizers, said ABC informed her of the decision by certified mail yesterday.
"I was disappointed, but I kind of expected it," she said. "I do respect the tribe, and I know they will do everything they can to make it safe, but I still think they are making enough money without putting the community at risk by serving alcohol."
However, the other protest organizer, Susan Duck of Tuolumne, said this morning she is "extremely pleased."
"The tribe is acting responsibly about what the community wants," she said. "My main concern was the safety of children, and I think restricting alcohol sales to 9 a.m. to midnight protects the children."
Administrative Law Judge Jerry Mitchell said in his decision that liquor license opponents who appeared at a Feb. 19 hearing at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds failed to convince him the license application should be refused.
Protesters had said the casino's liquor service would result in public intoxication, illicit drug use, loitering, harassment, unsafe driving, interference with schools and gambling losses.
But the judge wasn't swayed. Yes, some casino patrons will drink too much, but the same can be said for people at any place that serves alcohol, he said.
"What cannot be said of most licensees ... is that they have what the (casino) has: electronic surveillance and its own officers, to minimize such conduct."