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Fifteen bars, one license, welcome to Utah

It sounds like the premise of a bad joke: fifteen bars walk into a… but no, this was the reality of January’s DABC meeting. One singular bar license, fifteen business jostling for position and five ready to go today. Welcome to Utah.

To remind you then, the state currently has a complete dearth of available bar licenses; completely in part to magical and arbitrary limit of one bar per 10,200 population in Utah. At the January DABC meeting the following fifteen business had their name on the docket:

  • Fenice Mediterranean Bistro, Salt Lake City, ready to go
  • Wasatch Loft & Tap Room Bar, Park City, ready to go
  • Saddlebag Saloon, Eden, ready to go
  • The Pearl, Salt Lake City, ready to go
  • Garage Grill, Herriman, ready to go
  • Trolley Wing Co, Salt Lake City, February
  • The Green Room, Salt Lake City, March
  • Quarters Sugar House, Salt Lake City, March
  • Durango Bar, Salt Lake City
  • The Spoke, Moab, April
  • Edison House, Salt Lake City, June
  • Proper Brewing Moab Taphouse, Moab, June
  • Bout Time Pub & Grub, Bluffdale, October
  • Bout Time Pub & Grub, Saratoga Springs, October
  • Fife Brewing Company, Salt Lake City, February 2023

Rather than debate the relative merits of each business in real time, commissioner Tara Thue noted that staff had reviewed “tedious” detail prior to the meeting. Thue went on to confirm consideration of “the number of occupants, time on the list, location, number of bars per zip code amongst other factors”, all went into their decision making process. With all that in mind the commission gave Garage Grill the nod, who secured the single bar license available.

Thue also noted, “I feel like you’ve been on the list since the beginning of time. Reps from the newly minted Herriman bar and restaurant spoke about the culmination of the difficult four year project which will see the bar side of the business open almost immediately, with the restaurant side of things following along in a few more weeks time. This is a reminder to everyone – planning on opening a bar in the next decade? Get your name on the list now.

As for everyone else? Come back next month folks. A further solitary license will become available in February and after that – who knows. News stories on this years legislative session appear to indicate lawmakers are largely unconcerned by the economic stalling, and as we’ve reported on before, look set on making the matter worse – by eliminating private sales of liquor licenses. Other notable licenses handed out at the January meeting where as follows:

Full service restaurant licenses (beer, wine, liquor)

  • Ramblin Roads Restaurant, Layton, conditional
  • Bigshots Golf, St George, conditional
  • Mimi’s Cafe, Murray, conditional
  • Baek Ri Hyang Korean Restaurant, Salt Lake City, conditional
  • Bistro by Butler, Salt Lake City, conditional
  • Maria’s Mexican Restaurant, Taylorsville, conditional

Those keeping score and watching for the inevitable depletion of full service restaurant licenses down the road – should note 45 remain in the state after this meeting. Commissioner Thue noted that at current rates of approval, complete exhaustion will occur somewhere between July and October.

Limited service restaurant licenses (beer, wine)

  • The French Spot, Cedar City, conditional
  • Dirty Bird Fried Chxx, Clearfield, conditional
  • Ika Sushi & Japanese Restaurant, Midvale
  • Riggatti’s, St George
  • Picnic, Salt Lake City

Beer only restaurant license

  • Happy Camper Deli, West Jordan

Other liquor news

Yegads, behold the future, this month saw the DABC live stream proceedings. What’s possibly next? Mini bottles in liquor stores? Well actually yes according to the always sharp Ben Winslow – they might be making a limited return; because that’s what we’ve all been asking for right, errr right? Anyone? Hello?

Winslow reports the legislature are considering the following items in this year’s omnibus liquor bill:

  • Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will change its name to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services
  • Bar licenses will not be increased, Sen. Stevenson said, but they may be “re-worked” to free up some more. Utah has a quota of one license per 10,200 people
  • Lawmakers are also looking at doing away with something they created years ago — allowing a liquor licensee to sell their bar license to the highest bidder
  • Mini-bottles could be sold in state-run liquor stores under a pilot project

One other item to keep an eye on is DABC director Tiffany Clason’s proposal to fund a test of online liquor sales in Utah. The possible “click and collect” scheme follows on from changes to the law last year allowing customers to place online orders, followed by on site verification of ID and payment by “the patron who placed the order.”

Open letter to lawmakers

With the farce of licensing – let’s call it what it is folks – still punishing Utah’s economy (for a completely legal product) several in the local hospitality industry have signed an open letter aimed at lawmakers. I received this earlier in the week – here it is in it’s entirety:

We are Utah business owners in crisis. We are Utahns, we are voters, and we need your help. For the last several years, we have invested our time, money, and entrepreneurial spirit in the dream of opening our own businesses; businesses that provide jobs and services to our local community. And yet we are at risk of failure before we can even open our doors due to outdated and unfair state laws that restrict us from obtaining the basic licensing we need to open. As you are well aware, Utah arbitrarily restricts the number of bar licenses available for distribution. As the state experiences unprecedented growth, there are now more aspiring bar operators than there are bar licenses available. At the current pace of license distribution, most of us will be unable to open for at least another year, even though the vast majority of our operations are on track to open within the next six months, or much sooner. Instead of focusing our attention on the tireless work of opening a new business, we are stuck in limbo, unable to open our doors and uncertain if or when we will be able to do so.

It is time for you to deeply consider what benefit the State of Utah and its residents receive from artificially restricting liquor licenses. Gatekeepers will point to the “social interest” as the primary rationale for restricting bar licenses, yet there is zero evidence that the existing law disincentivizes overall alcohol consumption.

More importantly, the current law is inconsistent with our state’s self-proclaimed pro-business and small- government principles. Consider the negative downstream economic effects. Not only will fewer hospitality businesses find financial backing, which reduces available jobs, consumer spending, and household income, but any company or institute considering an investment in Utah will think twice before coming here, so long as the State is proactively interfering in the free-market development of culture and entertainment.

Even with these important considerations in mind, none of this speaks to the human and emotional toll. We would encourage all elected officials to attend a DABC meeting and witness firsthand as Utah entrepreneurs are forced to plead their case and the Commission is left in the unenviable position of choosing who will succeed and who will fail. The meetings are taxing and frustrating for everyone involved, including the DABC Commission, which has vocally and publicly called on the Legislature to address the issue by increasing the number of bar licenses available for distribution. We implore you to view our position with compassion, to place yourselves in our shoes as business owners who have risked everything to pursue our dream, only for arcane laws to place our careers and families in jeopardy at the finish line.

As current and prospective business owners in Utah, we call on the Legislature to heed the call of the people of our State and of the DABC itself and immediately introduce and pass legislation that increases available bar licenses and clears the path for local businesses to open their doors today, and in the future. Signed,

Jesse Wilkerson, Trolley Wing Company, Handlebar
Peter Cole, Squatters Craft Beers
Greg Schirf, Wasatch Brewery
Katy Willis, Quarters Arcade Bar
Michael Eccleston, Quarters Arcade Bar
Tim Ryan, Bout Time Pub & Grub
George Cardon-Bystry, Edison House
Charlie Cardon, Edison House
Jeff Cardon, Edison House
Jeff Bernard, Edison Alley Group: Bar X, Beer Bar, Eating Establishment
Scott Evans, PAGO Restaurant Group: PAGO, Hub & Spoke, East Liberty Tap House
Jason LeCates, Bourbon Group: Bourbon House, Whiskey House, White Horse
Alexandra Ortiz, Shades Brewing
Jameel Gaskins, Seabird, Yoko Ramen
James Soares, Lotus Craft: Fife Brewing Co., Ogden River Brewing
Katie McKeon, Salt City Kitchen
Britt Jursik, Challah Back Dough
Nick Marucci, Café Juniper
Leslie Corbett, Bjorn’s Brew
Buzz Willey, Pallet
Maxwell Christen, Big Mouth Marketing
Garrett Clements, evo Hotel
Mike Askerlund, Alibi Bar & Place

Flanker hosts Franceso LaFranconi

Franceso LaFranconi
Franceso LaFranconi

World-renowned mixologist Franceso LaFranconi will be guest bartending at Flanker this Friday evening (January 28th) – you’ll find him out back in the Parlor, the swanky cocktail lounge area of the new facility located in The Gateway. Utah cocktail connoisseurs might want to swing by and pick his brains. Probably don’t ask for a fuzzy navel or salty dog mind you. Here’s LaFranconi’s CV with just a few of his accolades:

He has also won some of the world’s most prestigious cocktail competitions, including the Bacardi-Martini Grand Prix World Final and John White Course in Singapore (both involving the I.B.A.), Bartender Hall of Fame Award from Bartender’s Magazine, the Raising the Bar Award from Cheers Magazine, Mixologist of the Year Award from Nightclub and Bar Magazine, Spirit Professional of the Year from Santé Magazine and Tales Of The Cocktail’s Golden Spirit Award.

New product releases

RoHa False Prophet
RoHa False Prophet

RoHa False Prophet

Feb 11th should be the launch date for this latest brew from RoHa. According to the brewery’s Rob Phillip’s, “it’s the newest Hazy IPA. We are calling it False Prophet. It is a complete departure from our traditional RoHa Branding, and will be exclusively in a 16-oz can. It will be initially only sold out of the RoHa Package Store – untill the DABC approves it.

This smooth drinking Hazy IPA rings in at 7% ABV, and will be pounded with about a one pound per barrel with a dry hop charge. Heavy utilization of Comet, Idaho 7, Simcoe, and Mandarina Bavaria hops will be used. Floral and citrus notes prevail. Expect smooth soft hop notes, with no bitterness. An IPA without bitterness, that has to be a false prophecy.”

Epic Capt’n Ron Raisin Stout

Epic Brewing Company are releasing Capt’n Ron Raisin Stout this month too. A part of their monthly beer series,it will only be brewed once. Notes from Epic on the beer, “Malt Bill: 2-Row Brewers Malt, Marris Otter, 2-Row Chocolate Malt, Roasted Barley, 2-Row Black Malt. Hops: Cascade, Chinook, Nugget Adjuncts: Rum-soaked Raisins. Sizes: 22oz Bombers. Price: $6.99/bottle”

Drink In Utah report

The latest Drink In Utah report is now online, listing all the latest product releases, deletions, price rises and price drops.  Click here for all the gory details. Spoiler alert – price increases are the main talking point this month with inflationary pressure on everything from shipping too packaging. Man alive, it’s enough to turn someone to drink and a trip to the bar.

Oh wait. We’re not allowed those…

In other news

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1 thought on “Fifteen bars, one license, welcome to Utah”

  1. I enjoy reading this and keeping up on the food and drink scene in Utah. I lived out of state for the past 10 years and was hoping in my absence wine and cider would be in Utah grocery stores by now.

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