Brewhaha liquor license still on hold, owner considers legal action
Bryce Jones, the owner of Brewhaha and Gusto!, is anxious to get a beer and wine license for his Salt Lake City business that opened Monday.
But the state liquor commission believes his latest application made after three other failed attempts in six months has been made too soon.
On Tuesday, the board unanimously deferred Jones' fourth liquor license application for 90 days, saying a "cooling off" period is needed.
The additional three months will allow staff at the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (UDABC) to craft new rules to determine how soon a denied applicant can reapply for a license.
After the meeting, Jones called the delay "completely capricious and discriminatory and absolutely wrong."
"The basic issue here is that we have done everything by the letter of law to open as a full-service restaurant and drive-through," he said of the business at 2108 E. 1300 South. "Having a liquor license will help us succeed, but it's not going to change us being here."
Jones said legal action may be his only recourse. "It will probably take a court ruling to get our license, and we'll do that if we have to."
The UDABC has no written rule on how long an applicant must wait to reapply for a liquor license. But the months-long controversy with Brewhaha has forced them to consider one.
Earlier this year, the Salt Lake Planning Commission turned down Jones' request for a tavern after residents said it would create noise, parking problems and traffic and safety issues.
Jones switched gears and was granted a Salt Lake City restaurant permit.
In August, however, when he applied for a full-service restaurant liquor permit that would have allowed the restaurant to sell beer, wine and hard spirits, residents complained again and the liquor commission denied the request.
One month later, Jones applied for a limited-service restaurant license that would allow only beer and wine sales with food. That request also was denied.
On Monday, Jones opened Brewhaha and Gusto!, a combination drive-through coffee shop and deli, just in time to request another liquor license.
Commissioners said they were frustrated that Jones had not waited and felt he was wasting their time.
"The community has voiced significant concerns about parking and traffic congestion," said member John Nielsen. "The business should operate the restaurant for a period of time to see if it really does cause problems. There needs to be a cooling off period to see what impacts it has."
Member Dennis Nordfelt agreed: "There needs to be some period of time so that the applicant shows mitigation of the concerns."
UDABC staff did a quick survey of other state's policies before the meeting. Many require that an applicant who has been denied a license to wait at least one year or show there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
However, board member Jeff Wright said he felt a one-year waiting period may be too excessive.
"You can't operate a successful restaurant in Salt Lake City without a liquor license," he said, "and one year seems too long to wait."