It took nearly a year, but Bryce Jones, owner of Gusto! can finally serve alcohol at his Sugar House restaurant.
On Tuesday, the state liquor commission granted the restaurant — formerly known as BrewHaHa — a limited-service restaurant license, which allows guests to order wine or beer with their meals.
"I’m very relieved," Jones said after the commission’s unanimous 5-0 vote. "It means we can serve a glass of wine with salmon, steak or lamb chops."
While the liquor license saga is over for Gusto!, Jones said he is embroiled in another legal battle — this time with his landlord.
Staff at the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control received an email early Tuesday saying the landlord was seeking to evict Jones and Gusto! from the building.
Jones said his landlord is suing him for $10,000 of unpaid expenses, but Jones has filed a counterclaim for $50,000.
"I fully expect this to be settled," he told the liquor board.
Commission members said those legal matters wouldn’t preclude the restaurant from getting a license.
"It’s no skin off our nose to give him the license," said board member Olivia Vela Agraz. "If the restaurant closes, the license will just go back into the state pool."
The Salt Lake City business owner had tried four times in the past year to get a liquor license from the state, but each time he was denied.
The tide turned last month when the liquor board granted Sunrise Bistro, located catty-corner from Gusto at 2095 E. 1300 South, a limited-service restaurant license. Continuing to deny Gusto would be "hypocritical," Jones said. "By granting that license last month, it was impossible to deny me one this month."
Sunrise owner Roger Macduff said when he bought the old Pinion Market and Deli last year, he wanted to change the concept to a full-service restaurant with liquor service. But because of the neighborhood opposition to Gusto/Brewhaha, "we delayed our request 10 months."
Macduff said Sunrise is significantly smaller — about 60 seats — compared to Gusto! and will close by 10 p.m.
"We’re not looking to bring in an adult crowd," Macduff told the board in May. At that meeting, a member of the local community council said the neighborhood supported the Sunrise liquor license.
That was a 90-degree switch from last August, when Jones initially proposed opening BrewHaHa Bar & Grill. At that time, residents were opposed to having a bar or tavern in the area, saying that it would create parking problems, traffic and safety issues as well as noise.
After being denied a club license, Jones changed the name of his business to Gusto! and switched the concept from a bar to a restaurant. He then requested a full-service restaurant permit that would have allowed hard liquor sales in addition to beer and wine.
When that was denied, he returned again for a limited-service restaurant license for just beer and wine.
Tired of Jones’ repeated requests, the board deferred the fourth liquor application for 90 days, saying a "cooling off" period was needed.
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