By Katie King
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — The Wonder Bar’s recent closure was a hit to the entire downtown community, according to Kathy Edwards, the president of the Downtown Casper Business Association.
“It’s always bad when a business closes; I hope it will be bought and reopened,” Edwards said. The association is a group of merchants who work to make the city’s core a premier shopping and entertainment district.
C85 Group — the Wonder Bar’s management company — announced in a press release earlier this month that the establishment would be shutting its doors on Feb. 17.
The bar, which originally opened in 1934, was housed in a 105-year old building near the corner of Center Street and Midwest Avenue. It was known for attracting famous guests, including John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway and Dizzy Gillespie.
Edwards, who also owns The Cadillac Cowgirl, isn’t a Casper native and doesn’t personally have ties to the Wonder Bar. But she said many in the Casper community have a strong connection to the establishment.
“I think a lot of people have memories there,” she said, adding that she’s heard some of her customers share stories about their fathers and grandfathers drinking at the bar.
Although Edwards is disappointed that downtown’s visitors have one less drinking and dining option, she said she doesn’t believe that the Wonder Bar’s closure should be viewed as the canary in a coal mine.
According to Edwards, many downtown businesses are currently thriving.
“I really don’t expect that this is an omen of things to come,” she said.
Connie Thompson, a member of the Casper Historic Preservation Commission, which works to safeguard the city’s historic, architectural and cultural heritage, said she hopes the next owner will continue to operate the establishment as the Wonder Bar.
“We need to preserve our history,” she said. “That’s our roots, that’s where we came from.”
Thompson said the business has played a significant role in the city’s social scene for decades.
“Parade day was always a big party and the Wonder Bar was always one of the biggest spots (to go),” she said. “... It is a historical entity of Casper and we as a commission would like to see it saved.”
The Wonder Bar has gone through about 10 owners over the years. Pat Sweeney, now a state lawmaker, sold the business to the Cercy family in 2016. The business was closed for extensive renovations before reopening in August 2017.
Tony Cercy, who bought the Wonder Bar with his son, Cole, was arrested a month before the venue’s reopening and charged with performing oral sex on an unconscious 20-year-old woman. In November, he was convicted of third-degree sexual assault after a first trial resulted in a hung jury on the charge and an acquittal on two other counts.
He is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.
Tony Cercy relinquished ownership of the liquor license for the Wonder Bar in February 2018, according to copies of the application and City Council meeting minutes.
The press release from C85 gave no reason for the business’s closure. But it indicated the restaurant’s 25 employees may be transferred to other businesses operated by C85.
“The management recognizes the dedication of their staff,” it states. “And will work to place them at positions within our community.”