At last call early Saturday morning, the bar at The Gaslight Social was still packed with revelers, every seat full and more patrons standing behind them.
Five bartenders worked nonstop to fill drink orders. Customers mingled wherever they could find room. Others were outside, entertaining themselves with hula hoops along the wooden fence in the restaurant's side lawn.
The bar, which opened Wednesday in Casper’s Old Yellowstone District, was so overwhelmed that its managers were forced to shut down their kitchen shortly after 9 p.m.
"Instead of having a very limited menu, we would rather just shut down the kitchen and focus on our bar staff," the bar's assistant manager Harley Geiger said.
That did nothing to discourage the patrons, who continued to order drinks right up until closing. Some were visitors who’d traveled across the country to witness Monday’s total solar eclipse. They were joined by curious locals looking to try one of Casper’s newest bars.
City officials spent years working to redevelop Casper’s downtown and the adjacent Old Yellowstone District. Their vision was a vibrant neighborhood with bars and restaurants that draw visitors to the city’s core.
Friday night offered the first indication of that vision realized. A crowd of visitors packed the downtown streets. They listened to music at the new David Street Station, browsed the wares of vendors on Second Street and dined at new restaurants and old favorites.
“We expected it to be busy, but not this busy,” said Harley Geiger, The Gaslight Social’s assistant manager.
The crowds resulted in a trial by fire for new establishments such as Gaslight and the newly reopened C85 at the Wonder Bar. Both experienced the technical problems that often hit a new business. But that did little to deter the crowds.
"We haven’t had all of the glitches and kinks worked out yet, and it’s something we’re figuring out," C85 bar manager Kellan Hawley said.
By Saturday, those glitches were fixed, and staff at The Wonder Bar were busy with the lunch rush.
“We’re happy to be a part of Casper’s downtown community,” Hawley said.
A few blocks away, Racca's Pizzeria Napoletana has also been enjoying a busy weekend. As the sun set Friday night, people dined on both the front and back patios.
Restaurant staff have been preparing for an influx of diners. Workers stayed until 2 a.m. earlier this week rolling dough.
"It hasn't been too crazy yet," Racca's Pizzeria Napoletana general manager Dana Packard said, "but you can feel it in the air."
Racca's has been the centerpiece of the cultural renaissance along Ash Street. To the south, is the Art 321 gallery and the newly refurbished bar, The Office. To the north sits Urban Bottle, an upscale liquor store with a tasting area, and The Gaslight Social.
In preparation for the eclipse, Packard entertained the idea of adding specialty menu items but decided against it out of concern for stretching the staff in too many directions.
"My rule has always been don’t make busy busier," she said. "We knew that we would be busy and that might be enough of a problem."
Next door, Urban Bottle experienced at least double its usual crowd since Wednesday, said Lauren Griffith, one of the owners.
“We’ve had so much foot traffic and people in here constantly, it’s amazing,” she said.
But not all of Casper’s establishments were benefiting from the eclipse festivities.
Keg & Cork in east Casper has seen normal crowds, if not smaller. General manager Christopher Jackson said they have talked to nearby hotels and businesses but haven't seen an uptick in foot traffic as more tourists come to Casper.
"Downtown is just crazy right now," he said. "That might be different because that’s where the David Street Station and all those places are opening and all the out-of-towners, that’s where they are told to go."
The Beacon Club in Mills has also seen a little increased business and is hosting live music every night during the festival. The staff there understands the allure of the new downtown but hope tourists that come to Wyoming will choose them because that is where the cowboys go sneaking, as the sign outside says.
Back at The Gaslight Social on Saturday, employees were gearing up for another busy night. The eclipse was still a few days away, and crowds were expected to increase before then.
"All our staff is ready for a weekend of no sleep," Geiger said. "We’re ready to go."