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House of Bottles

By | Last Modified: November 28, 2017

House of Bottles (also known to locals as Casa de Botellas) was a long-time liquor store that once operated more than one location. It was owned and operated by the Wachter Family.

For much of its existence, House of Bottles was located near the corner of 19th and Main, in a now-demolished building.

Licensing Conflict

At some point in or near 1997, Chad Wachter opened a south store on Wachter-owned land. At the time, it was outside of city limits and operating with a county license. In 1997, Bismarck annexed the land, by request of Gail and Lance Wachter – Chad’s parents.

Due to strict city liquor licensing limitations based on population, the store’s county license couldn’t simply transfer into a city license. Chad Wachter entered a two-year agreement with the City of Bismarck that allowed him to continue operations unless or until a proper license could be transferred. The agreement also waived any liabilities by the city should an appropriate city license not become available.

The store closed in January 1, 1999 at midnight when its temporary license expired. At the time, Chad announced no plans to pursue an additional license, and its inventory was transferred to its north-side store.

The north location closed shortly after a 1999 robbery-homicide rocked the city.

1999 Homicide

House of Bottles gained attention for a murder in February 1999, when a store clerk at its 2900 N 19th Street store was murdered after 1:00 a.m. The victim, 25-year-old Robbie Rahrich, was shot in the head while he sat in the store’s office and an undisclosed amount of money was stolen. There was no sign of forced entry or a struggle. It was the city’s first robbery-homicide.

Shortly after, on March 1, Police apprehended a former employee in Clinton, Montana. Shawn Glenn Helmenstein, 22, was charged with AA felony murder for the incident. Helmenstein was also under suspicion of murdering an 18-year-old female video store clerk at another robbery in Laurel, Montana.

Rahrich’s body was discovered by his girlfriend and another employee when she came to pick him up after the store closed. It was evident to Police that Rahrich was preparing a deposit and posting receipts for the day.

Helmenstein was found guilty in December 1999 for the murder.

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