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One winner, 16 losers for Utah's only bar permit

Published September 26, 2012 11:49 am

Alcohol • Successful effort to land available license at meeting brings cheers, tears.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Cheers erupted Tuesday and one woman cried when liquor-control commissioners awarded Utah's single available club license to MacCool's Public House, an Irish pub-style restaurant in Ogden.

Tears of the MacCool's supporter were ones of joy. But 16 other applicants — heads bowed — quickly left the room empty handed. There will be no more permits, based on the state's population, until December — and then only one license is expected to become available.

"It's been a struggle, but we've finally got our license," said MacCool's owner Scott Schlisman. "It's been pretty hard to explain to customers why an Irish pub didn't have a bar."

When MacCool's opened on Washington Boulevard in March 2011, licenses had run dry, and lawmakers have steadfastly refused to create any more over concerns of overconsumption, underage drinking and drunk driving. MacCool's was forced to get a restaurant license, which meant the establishment had to cover up its bar — as mandated by Utah law.

In restaurants, beer taps and open bottles of liquor must be obscured from public view by a partition, dubbed a Zion's curtain. Bartenders must be behind the curtain or in a back room, and in the dining area servers may not pop open a can of beer in front of diners. Beer taps and bartenders in public view are permissible only in establishments holding bar licenses.

Schlisman said the restaurant license didn't work for MacCool's because of still other complications, including the requirement that no one may buy an alcoholic beverage without also ordering food.

"We had to tell people coming from a convention that they'd have to order food if they wanted a drink, and they often said they had just had dinner," said Schlisman. "It made for some strange impressions of Utah."

Schlisman said out-of-state customers also became confused because they are accustomed to getting alcoholic beverages at bars in hotels. MacCool's owners located their third Utah pub in Ogden's historic Ben Lomond Hotel. One of the many attractions of the location was the hotel, which was built in 1927 in the Italian Renaissance Revival style and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said he endorsed MacCool's most recent license application because the eatery and the hotel are vital components to the city's tourism industry.

"Restaurant licenses can come with restrictions that people don't understand," he said. "They're used to a certain type of service, and this license allows MacCool's to provide it."

Other supporters cheering the outcome Tuesday included hotel management, the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce and the Ogden/Weber Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Jeffrey Wright, one of the commissioners with the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control who OK'd the permit, said he was happy that MacCool's finally got a liquor license after waiting nearly two years, "but it's sad for the many others who did not."

The losing applicants came from Salt Lake City, Holladay, Murray, Draper, South Jordan, Midvale, American Fork, Roy, Park City, Fort Duchesne, Santaquin and Moab.

dawn@sltrib.com

Twitter@DawnHouseTrib —

MacCools Public House

The Utah-based Irish pub-style family restaurant has three locations:

Ogden • Ben Lomond Hotel, 2510 Washington Blvd.

Hours • 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday

Salt Lake City • Foothill Village, 1400 S. Foothill Blvd.

Hours • 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday

Layton • Heritage Park Plaza, 855 W. Heritage Park Blvd.

Hours • 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 10:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m., Sunday