Utah breweries beg for a liquor license

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) Squatters Pub, at 147 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City, February 10, 2012.

Squatters and Wasatch breweries have received a liquor license for their soon-to-open Craft Cafe, but not before company leaders endured a tongue-lashing from the state liquor commission.

Officials with the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said they were “deeply concerned” about alcohol violations that occurred in February at Squatters Pub in downtown Salt Lake City.

The missteps occurred during a Utah Brewers Guild seminar to help members better understand state liquor policy. It was called “Working with the DABC: the good, the bad & the weird” and the guest speaker was Salt Lake City attorney Tanner Lenart, who specializes in alcohol policy.

During the private event — which had been advertised on social media — officers from the State Bureau of Investigation cited Squatters for “allowing patrons to bring alcoholic beverages onto the premises” and “providing free liquor” to guests. Both are considered severe infractions, according to DABC documents.

Less serious violations included using an “untrained server” and “failure to notify patrons of intent to dine.” The brewpub is a restaurant, not a bar, and adults must order food if they plan to drink beer.

In all, Squatters paid some $2,000 in fines for the violations.

In July, when the Squatters/Wasatch team applied for a restaurant liquor license for the Craft Cafe — as well as lounges at the new Salt Lake City International Airport — they faced serious scrutiny. The state alcohol commission considers previous violations when granting new permits to businesses.

“I have deep concerns about what happened,” commissioner Jacquelyn Orton said. “This is an industry leader in our community and I want to make it clear that what happened in February is pretty egregious.”

Monae Madson, a vice president with CANarchy, the brewers collective that operates Squatters and Wasatch, apologized profusely. She said the employee that booked the private event was let go and the company planned to retrain all managers and employees on alcohol policy.

The commission postponed its decision until that occurred.

The breweries returned to the commission on Tuesday, where Madson received another tongue-lashing and was nearly brought to tears as she apologized again for the company missteps. Madsen promised it was a one-time occurrence.

In the end, the license was granted for Craft Cafe, at 5725 W. Amelia Earhart Drive. The eatery is expected to open Sept. 8 and will have breakfast and specialty sandwiches for dine-in and takeout.

Its new liquor permit allows it to serve beer and wine — with food.

— Kathy Stephenson

(Photo courtesy of Hell's Backbone Grill) Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, co-owners of Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah. The duo were nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award, the most prestigious prize in the food world — but the foundation recently announced it will not be announcing winners this year.

Chefs won’t get a chance at their culinary ‘Oscar’

Jen Castle and Blake Spalding were finally in the running for the food world’s top prize, the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award.

But there will be no culinary ‘Oscar’ for the co-owners of Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder.

Last week, the foundation announced that it will not select category winners in 2020 — an unprecedented decision in the awards’ 30-year history. The decision comes as restaurants continue to suffer the negative effects of COVID-19.

The foundation also will skip its 2021 awards, as it spends the next year working with a social justice agency “to overhaul the policies and procedures for the awards.”

During the Black Lives Matter movement, the foundation has been criticized for its “systematic bias” and “lack of diversity” among its pool of award candidates.

Castle and Spalding were running in the “best chef” Mountain region division, along with three chefs from Denver, one from Aurora, Colo., and another from Jackson, Wyo.

The co-owners had been James Beard semifinalists in previous years, but 2020 marked the first year the co-owners — and their farm-to-table restaurant near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument — made it to the final round.

The foundation is still planning to spotlight many of the nominees during a Sept. 25 ceremony on Twitter.

— Kathy Stephenson

Boozy ice cream in Vernal

For the first time in recent memory — and possibly ever — the state liquor commission gave an alcohol permit to an ice cream shop.

Buzzed Creamery in Vernal applied for the permit so it could produce ice cream with classic cocktail flavors.

“It’s not a beverage, so you’d have to eat a lot to get drunk,” compliance officer Abe Kader assured the commission.

Still, customers have to be 21 or older to enjoy the spiked scoops — which include the Margarita Kiss with tequila, the Princess Peach with whiskey, and the Caramel Dunkachino with coffee, whipped vodka and bourbon cream liqueur.

Regular “virgin” ice cream also is available at the shop located at 100 East and 100 South, Vernal.

— Kathy Stephenson

New chef at Montage Deer Valley

Park City’s Montage Deer Valley has promoted Christian Ojeda to be its new executive chef.

Previously the resort’s sous chef, Ojeda now will oversee the menu at APEX, the property’s signature restaurant, as well as Burgers & Bourbon, Daly’s Pub & Rec and The Après Lounge.

Ojeda, who has worked at the resort since 2014, graduated from the Art Institute of Colorado and has managed kitchens in California, New Mexico and other Utah restaurants and hotels.

“Park City has always felt like home to me,” he said, “and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue growing roots within the Montage family.”

— Alixel Cabrera