Another month, another bunch of Utah bar owners going away without a coveted bar license from the state’s liquor agency.
One establishment — Wasatch Loft & Tap Room Bar in Park City — received its bar license at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s commission, after seven months of waiting.
The Park City business, known as the Wasatch Brewpub at 250 Main St., had been operating its second-floor bar under a winter seasonal license. The commission voted unanimously to award the full-time bar license, after a discussion about whether the establishment’s loft space would be used as a bar, or as overflow or special event space.
The single bar license was freed up in April, after Harrisville’s Triple Peaks Sports Grill surrendered its license after its building burned down in January, and was carried over to this month’s meeting. That license will only carry through the end of May, and then Wasatch must refile licensing paperwork and pay two licensing fees.
Tuesday’s decision left another 15 applicants for bar licenses empty handed. Relief will be coming soon for some of those applicants, as the commission is planning to hand out 10 full bar licenses and one seasonal bar license — brought on by the Utah Legislature’s mandated quota of licenses based on the state’s rising population — at a special meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.
The 10th license became available when the Circle Inn Pizzeria in Sunset — which suffered a fire in January and had asked the DABC for extensions for months — relinquished its license.
Business owners left without a bar license vented their frustration to the commission Tuesday.
Marcio Buffolo, the brewmaster at Salt Lake City’s Shades Tap Room, said he had just returned from the World Beer Cup, where Shades won three medals. Those winning beers each have a 6% alcohol content, which can’t legally be sold at their tap rooms, because Shades is operating under a tavern license, which sets a limit of 5% alcohol content.
Buffolo added that Shades’ revenue dropped 66% last year after it relinquished its bar license and began operating under a tavern license.
Pablo Hinojosa, of Salt Lake City’s Durango Bar, told the commissioners that his bar was completely ready to go — and that he had been in the business for 10 years, and would be a worthy recipient of a bar license.
Thomas Jacobsen, the commission’s chairman, held out a lifeline to both Buffolo and Hinojosa, when those nine new licenses are handed out. “We’d like to give you a license,” he said. “You’ve been here so many times.”
Among the 15 applicants who didn’t receive a bar license Tuesday were two new applicants, both in downtown Salt Lake City: Edison House, a private social club that aims to open in September; and the Evo Hotel, an “adventure-minded” lodging option in the Granary District connected to a skatepark and other amenities. The Evo was granted an on-premises tavern license.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting:
• May 31, next Tuesday, marks the end of bar license transfers — so the eight bars that applied for full transfers, three that applied for a 51% ownership change of entity, and six who applied for off-premises beer transfers must also re-file paperwork and pay two licensing fees.
• The state saw a $34 million increase in alcohol sales over the last year — up 8% from the previous year — said Sean Williford, DABC’s finance director. The increase was partly explained by an increase in the state’s population, he said, but some of the boost came from customers buying more higher-end liquor. The DABC will use the money from increased sales to hire more employees in state liquor stores, and to give current employees a raise, Williford said.
• The commission’s usually quick review of full-service restaurant applications was slowed down by an extended discussion over a new Chili’s Grill and Bar in Saratoga Springs. Commissioners noted the chain’s history of alcohol violations; the board moved to require Chili’s staff could take DABC training to prevent further violations before the Saratoga Springs location — which is set to open July 15 — gets its application approved.
• A representative for Longhorn Steakhouse in St. George was questioned at length over an alcohol violation — a sale to a minor at another Longhorn location in December. Ultimately, it and all the restaurant applications were approved.
• All limited-service restaurant applicants were approved, including Ombu Hotspot in Salt Lake City, Himalayan Flavor in Logan, Sushi Pro in Ogden, Hama Sushi in Saratoga Springs, and Bella Marie’s Pizzeria in St. George.
• Beer-only restaurant applications were approved for La Palmita Market and Mexican Cantina in Salt Lake City and Lovebirds Hot Chicken in American Fork.
• On-premise beer recreational amenity applicants X-Golf in Riverton and Bad Caddy Golf in Salt Lake were approved.
• Three establishments — The Royal in Salt Lake City, Porter’s Smokehouse and Grill in Springdale, and Ozora Izakaya Bar in downtown Salt Lake City — all asked for extended closure requests, and will report on progress toward reopening at the DABC’s next meeting.
• By the time that June meeting happens, DABC won’t be called that any more. The Utah Legislature’s move to rename the agency the Department of Alcohol Beverage Services will take effect June 1. Agency spokeswoman Michelle Schmitt said there would be a public event to mark the change, June 1 at The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City.
• Schmitt said the agency has set up a system for license holders to make payments over the phone — a transitional system until a new online payment portal is working.
• As of July 1, the Legislature’s new definition of beer — which will remove several types of hard seltzer, because of the chemistry of how their flavors are made — takes effect. The DABC will work with manufacturers and stores during the transition, Schmitt said. Noncompliant beverages don’t have to be thrown out, but must be off of grocery and convenience store shelves by fall, she said.