16-4-207. Notice of application -- investigation -- publication -- protest. (1) When an application has been filed with the department for a license to sell alcoholic beverages at retail or to transfer the location of a retail license, the department shall review the application for completeness and, based upon review of the application and any other information supplied to the department, determine whether the applicant or the premises to be licensed meets criteria provided by law. The department may make one request for additional information necessary to complete the application. The application is considered complete when the applicant furnishes the application information requested by the department. When the application is complete, the department of justice shall investigate the application as provided in 16-4-402. When the department determines that an application for a license under this code is complete, the department shall publish in a newspaper of general circulation in the city, town, or county from which the application comes a notice that the applicant has made application for a retail on-premises license or a transfer of location and that protests may be made against the approval of the application by residents of the county from which the application comes, residents of adjoining Montana counties, or residents of adjoining counties in another state if the criteria in subsection (4)(d) are met. Protests must be mailed to the department within 10 days after the final notice is published. Notice of application for a new license must be published once a week for 4 consecutive weeks. Notice of application for transfer of ownership or location of a license must be published once a week for 2 consecutive weeks. Notice may be substantially in the following form:
NOTICE OF APPLICATION FOR RETAIL
Notice is given that on the ........ day of ....., 20..., one (name of applicant) filed an application for a retail all-beverages license with the Montana department of revenue to be used at (describe location of premises where beverages are to be sold). Residents of ...... counties may protest against the approval of the application. Each protestor is required to mail a letter that contains in legible print the protestor's full name, mailing address, and street address. Each letter must be signed by the protestor. A protest petition bearing the names and signatures of persons opposing the approval of an application may not be considered as a protest. Protests may be mailed to ....., department of revenue, Helena, Montana, on or before the ..... day of ......, 20......
(2) Each applicant shall, at the time of filing an application, pay to the department an amount sufficient to cover the costs of publishing the notice.
(3) (a) If the department receives no written protests, the department may approve the application without holding a public hearing.
(b) A response to a notice of opportunity to protest an application may not be considered unless the response is a letter satisfying all the requirements contained in the notice in subsection (1).
(c) If the department receives sufficient written protests that satisfy the requirements in subsection (1) against the approval of the application, the department shall hold a public hearing as provided in subsection (4).
(4) (a) If the department receives at least one protest but less than the number of protests required for a public convenience and necessity determination as specified in subsection (4)(c), the department shall schedule a public hearing to be held in Helena, Montana, to determine whether the protest presents sufficient cause to deny the application based on the qualifications of the applicant as provided in 16-4-401 or on the grounds for denial of an application provided for in 16-4-405, exclusive of public convenience and necessity. The hearing must be governed by the provisions of Title 2, chapter 4, part 6.
(b) If the department receives the number of protests required for a public convenience and necessity determination as specified in subsection (4)(c) and the application is for an original license or for a transfer of location, the department shall schedule a public hearing to be held in the county of the proposed location of the license to determine whether the protest presents sufficient cause to deny the application based on the qualifications of the applicant as provided in 16-4-401 or on the grounds for denial of an application provided for in 16-4-405 including public convenience and necessity. The hearing must be governed by the provisions of Title 2, chapter 4, part 6.
(c) The minimum number of protests necessary to initiate a public hearing to determine whether an application satisfies the requirements for public convenience and necessity, as specified in 16-4-203, for the proposed premises located within a quota area described in 16-4-201 must be 25% of the quota for all-beverages licenses determined for that quota area according to 16-4-201(1), (2), and (5) but in no case less than two. The minimum number of protests determined in this manner will apply only to applications for either on-premises consumption beer or all-beverages licenses.
(d) A resident of a county in another state that adjoins the county in Montana from which an application comes may protest an application only if the county or state of residence of the person has certified to the department that a similarly situated Montana resident would be able to make formal protest of a liquor license application in that state or county. The department may, by rule, establish how the certification is to be made.