Santa Ysabel Resort and Casino opens without liquor license 4-12-07

JULIAN, Calif. (AP) - The new Santa Ysabel Resort and Casino has an enviable view of Lake Henshaw and the surrounding mountains - but no booze.

County officials blocked the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control from issuing a license until the tribe completes road improvements on Highway 79 leading to the driveway of the $27 million casino.

``The license was approved, but it's being held, and we are waiting to hear from the county that the tribe has done what it needs to do before it is released,'' said Robin Van Dyke, district director for the licensing agency.

Doug Lentz, a consultant hired by the tribe to help build the casino, said the tribe is complying with requirements of the state Department of Transportation, which maintains the road. He said the improvements will take eight weeks to complete.

Meanwhile, the 35,000squarefoot facility in the rural mountains an hour's drive northeast of San Diego will offer visitors a 150seat buffet and entertainment stage. The brewerystyle bar in the resort, designed to look like a mountain lodge, will be dry.

Tribal members and their guests celebrated the casino's opening Wednesday with speeches and traditional bird songs followed by the sound of slot machines clanging into action.

Santa Ysabel Chairman Johnny Hernandez said opening the casino will help finance better roads on the reservation, health care for members, education for children and a center for seniors.