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Want to open a bar in Utah this year? Maybe think again…

Pendry Park City - Apres Pendry bar seating

As reported today by Sean Means in the Tribune, efforts to stave off a total collapse of bar licensing in Utah, have now almost certainly failed. Despite year-long insistence that communication with law makers would help matters, it would appear we’re looking at Utah’s bar licensing conundrum go unaddressed for a further year.

This year’s legislative session lurched into action on January 17th, bringing with it a barely agreeable forty licenses – these were mooted as potential additions to the overall pool of bar licenses. With little rationale this was quickly slashed in half. As per Mean’s reporting today, it would appear this has been whittled again to fifteen. Who knows where the refinements might finally stop by the time the 2023 session comes to an end at midnight today.

As I reported on here in January, a glance over the preceding year of applicants shows what we’re in store for. And what the state needs. Thirty would be bars appeared on DABS documentation over the last calendar year. Who knows how many might’ve looked at the state of play and simply thought, “forget it, I’ll invest elsewhere.”

Should you be playing catch-up, or merely looking on in curiosity from afar, the story goes as follows. Utah issues den of iniquity bar licenses based on state population numbers. One license is doled out for every 10,200 inhabitants (it was one per 7,850 just five years or so ago). Many states run such a quota based system, but Utah does so with one of the strictest limits found in the Mountain West; neighboring Colorado for example, licenses bars at a rate of one per 4,650 residents.

After repeatedly butting up against this self imposed economic headroom, multiple year’s past have seen storied effort applied to easing that limit. Sadly, unless there’s a major U-turn at the last minute, Utah will again be plastered over the headlines for all the wrong reasons for yet another year.

On a similar topic, it looks like 30 additional full service restaurant licenses will be added to the pool for the coming year; these too are based off of population quotas, albeit a more workable one per 4,467.

I’ll report more when the chips lay where they fall. You can read all of the SB173 here.

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