Love’s will get a liquor license for its planned truck stop and casino next to Ramsay on Interstate 90 if state officials grant a transfer from the now-defunct 5 Mile Bar & Casino, but people can formally protest the swap.
Meanwhile, it appears as if Love’s will open its second truck stop complex in Montana just outside of Missoula before it gets off the ground next to Ramsay 7 miles west of Butte.
Casey Dayton, a senior planner for Missoula County, said Love’s has all its necessary permits and has started construction on a truck stop and tire shop just north of Missoula near the “Y,” where I-90 intersects with Highway 93 going north toward Flathead Lake.
Dayton didn’t have a projected opening date from Love’s but said, “They still have quite a bit of work ahead of them.”
Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, an Oklahoma City-based corporation with more than 480 truck stops and stores in 41 states, has declined to give The Montana Standard any updates about its plans in recent weeks. Emails were sent again Thursday seeking comment.
Love’s opened its first Montana truck stop off I-90 near Hardin, about 60 miles east of Billings, in 2017. It announced plans for a truck stop, fast-food franchise, and tire shop on I-90 next to Ramsay in January 2017 but as of a few weeks ago still lacked some necessary permits and OKs from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Montana Department of Transportation.
It gave Butte-Silver Bow officials reams of details and drawings about its planned complex last year, which included a large convenience store, a casino, an Arby’s restaurant, a tire shop, and parking for at least 110 tractor trailers.
The company has also applied for the “all” liquor license the 5 Mile Bar on South Harrison Avenue had that allowed it to sell beer, wine, and liquor. Love’s would use the license at its casino near Ramsay.
The state now auctions off new liquor licenses, but that does not apply to transfers. They require an application and then investigation by the Montana Department of Revenue and Montana Department of Justice to confirm that legal requirements are met.
Sanjay Talwani, a spokesman for the revenue department, said the agency has started to process Love’s application. That includes examining the company, financial matters, and proposed location, he said.
The agency has opened the process to protest letters from the public, which in this case is limited to residents of Butte-Silver Bow and its adjoining counties (see info box). Those counties include Anaconda-Deer Lodge, Beaverhead, Jefferson, Madison, and Powell.
Protests can be based on the applicant’s qualifications or grounds for denial listed in state statute. Examples of valid protests include an applicant unlikely to operate within the law, a location that can’t be properly policed by local authorities, or the welfare of nearby people being adversely affected.
All it takes is one formal protest to initiate a hearing before an administrative law judge with the revenue department, but depending on the number received, that hearing could be held in Helena or Butte-Silver Bow. Hearings are typically scheduled within 90 days.
If there is a hearing, Talwani said, all who protested would be notified of the time and location, and Love’s would be allowed to respond. The department would consider the protests along with other factors in deciding whether to grant the transfer.
Many residents in Ramsay oppose the truck stop, saying it will bring noise, crime, and pollution to their small community, but their efforts to stop it have failed so far.
The Love’s just north of Missoula is being built next to a cluster of three other major truck stops — a Town Pump-Flying J Travel Center, a TA Travel Center, and a Muralt’s Travel Plaza. The frontage road between Muralt’s and the Town Pump is named Truck Stop Road.
The nearest truck stops to Ramsay are 3.7 miles east – a Town Pump on the south side of I-90 and a Town Pump-Flying J on the north side. Both have casinos.