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SD business plans to combine bullets and beer

Bullets and beer long have been part of the lore in Deadwood, the western South Dakota gambling town where Wild Bill Hickok met his demise during an 1876 poker game.

Now, an FBI agent nearing retirement hopes to tap that history by opening a combined indoor shooting range and saloon a block off Deadwood's historic Main Street.

The Deadwood Guns complex proposed by Greg Vecchi would host several businesses, including a gun shop, a pawn shop, the shooting range and a bar called the Bullets and Beer Saloon. Vecchi also plans to offer premium cigars on an outdoor patio.

"It's all the things I like: alcohol, tobacco and firearms," he said.

Deadwood Mayor Chuck Turbiville said the proposed saloon's name, Beer and Bullets, prompted some discussion when it was pitched to city commissioners.

"To be honest, if it was me, I probably would have come up with a different name," Turbiville said.

But commissioners were assured by Vecchi's credentials and planned procedures for gun safety. A certified NRA range safety officer always would be on hand, and no one would be allowed to use the gun range if they have been drinking.

"No one shoots or handles a real gun unless they can blow a 0.00 on a Breathalyzer," Vecchi said.

The concept doesn't appear common, but it's not without precedent.

In 2012, Powder Springs, Ga., approved an alcohol permit for The Governor's Club, a facility that includes an indoor shooting range, a full-service gunsmith and a members lounge.

In Deadwood, the city commission approved the business to allow alcohol sales and indoor shooting, but no more than 50 percent of the business' income can be derived from alcohol sales. That's because state law prohibits holders of concealed carry permits from bringing pistols into establishments that exceed that percentage.

But there will be plenty of simulated firearms fun to be had after the craft beers begin flowing.

The Bullets and Beer Saloon will be equipped with a Ti Training simulator, offering interactive use-of-force scenarios used to train law enforcement officers. The simulator will also offer three fun modes to exterminate zombies, battle in an Old West shootout or play the good guy in an urban hostage or gang fight simulation.

"We're not using live ammo or a live gun or anything like that," Vecchi said. "It's almost like gun karaoke."

Vecchi estimates it will cost between $800,000 and $1 million to launch Deadwood Guns, and he hopes to have it operating by June. He and his partner, Blake Haverberg, are seeking additional investors, Vecchi said.

Haverberg owns the 7,500-square-foot Gallows Building that will house the range and saloon, and the historic Martin & Mason hotel across the street. The hotel ballroom would host four gun shows a year and numerous large training events.

Vecchi, an Army veteran who served stateside as a Criminal Investigation Division agent, plans to turn in his FBI badge Feb. 4 -- his 50th birthday. He'll then work part-time as a Deadwood police officer while working to bring his dream venture to reality.

"I've wanted to do something like this as long as I can remember, because it's got everything I love," he said.

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