‘Bar-a-palooza’: Utah’s liquor board hands out eight bar licenses

Population increases and approval by the Utah Legislature made the new licenses available.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A state liquor store opens in West Valley City at 5432 West High Market Drive, Suite F, on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, offering wine, liquor and refrigerated beer. The commission overseeing the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services met on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, to look over a slew of bar license applications.

After months of handing out bar licenses one at a time, the governing board of Utah’s liquor agency awarded eight of the coveted licenses in a single day.

The commission of Utah’s newly renamed Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services approved bar licenses Tuesday, at its monthly meeting, to these eight establishments:

Boomerang’s Down Under, 160 S. Main, in downtown Salt Lake City, in the basement space formerly known as Murphy’s.

Evo Hotel, a hotel and recreation resort at 660 S. 400 West, in Salt Lake City’s Granary district.

Paxton Pub, 365 Paxton Ave., set to open soon in the apartment complex near the Target on 300 West, Salt Lake City.

Quarters Arcade Bar, 1045 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City — in the Sugar House neighborhood, expanding a franchise that began in downtown Salt Lake City.

Shades Brewing Tap Room, at 154 Utopia Ave, South Salt Lake.

The Spoke, scheduled to open its bar Friday at 5 N. Main St., Moab.

• The Valley Saloon, set to open in July in Vernal.

Woodbine Hospitality, opening near a new “food hall” set to launch in July at 545 W. 700 South, in Salt Lake City’s Granary district.

“Today is bar-a-palooza,” commented commissioner Tara Thue. However, she added, “the rest of the year will be rough.”

The commission had the option to award 11 bar licenses, plus two seasonal half-licenses. Tuesday’s action, commissioners said, means the board has three full licenses, plus two seasonal licenses, to give out for the rest of the year — unless other establishments give up their licenses for some reason.

One applicant, the Durango Bar at 923 S. State in Salt Lake City, has been waiting months for a license. At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners asked owner Pablo Hinojosa to submit a business plan by July’s DABS meeting. Commission chair Thomas Jacobsen said Hinojosa had been working with DABS staff to address management issues at the bar, and that one of the remaining licenses should be reserved for the Durango.

Jacobsen expressed concern that five of the eight licenses awarded Tuesday were for Salt Lake City establishments — Durango would make six — and applicants in the rest of the state could be out of luck.

“I don’t have an alternative,” Jacobsen said, noting that the applicants “are potentially good operators, and deserve a license. But we’ve been put in a box.”

The extra licenses the commission had at their disposal Tuesday became available after the Utah Legislature made a change in resort licenses.

The Legislature’s action opened up nine full-time bar licenses, and one seasonal bar license. A 10th full license became available when the Circle Inn Pizzeria in Sunset relinquished its license, after a fire closed the establishment in January. A second seasonal license was freed up last month, when the Wasatch Loft & Tap Room in Park City was awarded a full-time license, and surrendered its old seasonal one.

An 11th full license opened up during Tuesday’s meeting, when the board revoked the bar license for Sergio’s, a Mexican restaurant in Park City, over a dispute over transferring the license in an ownership change. The board said it would work with Sergio’s new ownership to hammer out the confusion, but the restaurant would have to reapply to regain their license.

For the last few months, as the DABS commission awaited the chance to issue that cache of licenses, the board has doled out one or two bar licenses at its monthly meetings. Usually, those licenses were available only because another establishment surrendered theirs. Some applicants have waited months for approval.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting:

• The agency’s staff told the board that retail sales from last July to May 31 totaled $509,138,053, compared with $473,731,489 for the same period in 2020-2021 — an increase of 7.47%. The average daily sales per liquor store in May was $1,751, up from $1,695 in May 2021.

• The commission approved the appointment of Keith Jeffery, president of Carlson Distribution, the state’s largest beer distributor, to DABS’ advisory board. The board weighs in on drafting administrative rules for the agency.

• Tuesday’s meeting was the first for the commission under the agency’s new name. The Legislature this winter approved the name change, doing away with the old Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.