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Zero bars granted license at Utah’s September DABS meeting

Counter and bar sapce at Current Fish and Oyster

After last month’s DABS meeting you might recall I posed this not entirely rhetorical conundrum. When tasked with managing Utah’s most precious of resources – that’s bar licenses not water duh – how exactly should a kingmaker act? This month saw one possible course of action come to pass, which is to say, inaction. Demurring on the question entirely, DABS commissioners sought to punt the question into October’s meeting. Who gets a license this month? No one, that’s who.

To recap the dizzying state of play as it stands, a solitary full bar license was available in the state of Utah at the September 27th DABS meeting; with only one more bar license predicted to become available by years end. We should see that minted through population increases in November. On the list at the September meeting then, two businesses were ready to go ASAP if given their golden ticket:

  • West Side Tavern, Salt Lake City
  • Fisher Brewing Company, Salt Lake City

Libby Taylor, GM of West Side Tavern, told commissioners that the business was struggling to get business back up to pre-covid numbers, not least with ongoing 300 W. construction issues. Currently holding a tavern license means that the bar is limited to serving beer up to 5% ABV only; in turn that means some 40-50% of the Squatters/Wasatch product line can’t be saved to bar patrons. Taylor specifically called out one of the Utah’s most popular craft creations as, Hop Rising, as something she can’t pour for customers.

Tim Dwyer, co-owner of Fisher Brewing spoke next. Fisher also presently hold a tavern license and have grand plans for their ultra-popular brewery bar. Dwyer explained to commissioners the multi-miillion investment the company has made to expand into adjacent property. This will eventually see overall capacity growing to support more than 500+ guests – not least host multiple events in a private 1300 square foot events space. Dwyer finished by highlighting the space would also be utilized for regular bar overflow, and made note of a rooftop patio coming along in time too.

Nine other hopefuls populated the wait list, with commissioners seeking to hear from a trio reckoning on imminent opening dates:

  • Verse, Salt Lake City, October
  • Lit Arcade Bar, Ogden, October
  • Edison House, Salt Lake City, October
  • Bout Time Pub & Grub, Bluffdale, November
  • Proper Brewing Moab Taphouse, Moab, November
  • Marquis, Park City, November
  • Aker Restaurant, Salt Lake City, December
  • Bout Time Pub & Grub, Saratoga Springs, February 2023
  • Yuki, Salt Lake City, July 2023

Michael Repp – formerly of The Sun Trapp – spoke of investing not only life savings, but fourteen and sixteen hour construction days; the bar trying to compress months of work into mere weeks. Repp spoke to the relative lack of safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in Salt Lake City with Verse hoping to be the second bar in the city for the underserved community.

Next to the oche were Nate and Kristi Smith, owners of Ogden’s would be Lit Arcade Bar. The Smith’s explained everything was materially in place, including forty different arcade games (including four skee-ball machines to the delight of one commissioner). The 500 person facility was now waiting solely on the installation of fire suppression equipment, which was anticipated to in place by the third week of October.

Lastly, owners from private members club Edison House went into great detail on how their massive new construction was the best choice for commissioners. The duo spoke to their attendance of every DABS meeting for the previous 18 months, their 30,000 square foot facility that would support 80 new jobs and ultimately generated 4-5x more taxable revenue than a regular bar. The team again. noted that Edison already employ eleven salaried staff to the tune of $70,000 per month.

One commissioner spoke frankly, stating that Verse and Edison House were essentially separated by a coin toss but with neither ready – right here right now – the earlier decision to hold was made. The decision isn’t unexpected. Multiple commissioners have spoken on the issue of “being ready to open” for months on end. The clear fear is handing over the most valuable of assets, only to find a business encounter additional delays.

That means October’s meeting should prove one of the most uncomfortable yet.

Note: I should add that there are currently two Winter seasonal bar licenses available in Utah. These allow bar owners to operate a bar from the period of November 1st through April 30th. At that point a business would be expected to either have secured a full bar license or, a Summer seasonal license.

Other winners you might be interested in this month include:

Full service restaurant licenses (liquor, wine, beer)

  • Heirloom Common, Midway
  • Topgolf, Vineyard
  • Aqua Terra Steak & Sushi, Salt Lake City
  • Meat Hook BBQ, Salt Lake City
  • Mr & Mrs Crab Juicy Seafood & Bar, Salt Lake City

Limited service restaurant licenses (wine, beer)

  • Social District Bistro, St. George

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