Utah’s liquor board issues three bar licenses, while warning other bars about too many violations

“We literally have to ration the licenses,” one commissioner said at the August DABS meeting.

(Sean P. Means | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Durango Bar, at 923 S. State St. in Salt Lake City, received its bar license from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services' commission on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022 — after trying for several months.

Three Utah businesses received much-sought-after bar licenses Tuesday — one after months of trying, another at its first appearance before the state’s liquor board.

The members of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services commission warned future applicants that there are only two more bar licenses to hand out in 2022. Commissioners also called out businesses that have racked up multiple violations of liquor laws — warning them that the board could revoke their licenses.

The Durango Bar, at 923 S. State St. in Salt Lake City, had its bar license application approved after months of discussions with the liquor commission over the establishment’s management practices.

Commissioner Tara Thue said she was impressed with the Durango, and owner Pablo Hinojosa, for the amount of thought they put into its managers’ handbook, and working with the Suazo Business Center.

Even as she voted to approve the Durango’s license, though, Thue said she wanted to see the bar open more than four days a week.

“I hope you see this not only as a business opportunity, but an opportunity to serve your community, and be open with hours that serve the community outside of the weekends,” Thue said.

While Hinojosa has sat through DABS commission meetings since March in hopes of securing The Durango’s license, A.J. and Mina Marzia, owners of The People’s Lounge — at 260 S. Main St., in downtown Salt Lake City — got their application approved on the first try.

The People’s Lounge is scheduled to open Sept. 8, and Commissioner Jaquelyn Orton noted its first-timer luck.

“As a small business owner myself, I know how devastating it can be for a business to carry the costs you’ve already put into it,” Orton said. “The People’s Lounge should have this opportunity, because they have demonstrated the ability to go ahead, and get into business and be making money. Sometimes with a small business, it’s a life-or-death situation, carrying costs month after month.”

The Coop by Roosters — a bar attached to Roosters Brewing Co. at 748 W. Heritage Park Blvd. in Layton — received the third bar license the board approved Tuesday. Owner Kim Bouchard openly wept with relief after the vote.

Juliette Tennert, the commission’s new chair, cited the $750,000 loan Roosters received from the Davis County Council of Governments, as well as letters of support from the community — something, she said, that usually doesn’t sway her vote.

“That kind of investment from your entire community moves me, and we were all very impressed,” Tennert said, adding that “being able to give that kind of loan to a woman-owned business makes me happy.”

Thue noted that the commission has only two more bar licenses to hand out in the last four months of 2022 — and 11 applicants are waiting in line, with their establishments either ready to go or planning to open in the next few months.

“We literally have to ration the licenses,” Thue said.

Some licenses may be freed up, Tennert warned, if current license holders lose them over multiple violations of Utah’s liquor rules. This month’s list of violations was extensive, with 41 instances of errors committed while serving customers.

“It’s hard to see a list of violations that is this long,” Tennert said. “When we get to three violations, we’re going to have to look at revoking licenses, because of where we are.”

The Tap Room, in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood, received four violations. Avenues Proper Restaurant & Publick House, in Salt Lake City, received two violations. So did Buffalo Wild Wings, once at its Sandy location and once at its South Jordan restaurant.

Daniel Chambers, owner of The Tap Room, told the commission Tuesday that the violations were the first the bar had received since 1986. The violations were due to one employee, who has been dismissed, Chambers said.

Commissioner Jaquelyn Orton noted that the violations at Buffalo Wild Wings dated back to last September. The staff has received ongoing training, she said, and yet the violations continue. The restaurant, at the suggestion of Commissioner Thomas Jacobsen, will work on issues and report back at the September meeting.

Accentuating the positive, Tiffany Claason, DABS’ executive director, told the board that her office had sent 146 letters of recognition to businesses who passed the Special Bureau of Investigation’s safety inspections with flying colors.

“Originally we thought we might have 20,” Clason said, over Zoom from Nashville, where she is attending an alcohol policy conference. “We know you all have to deal with violations, but we want to recognize licensees who are going above and beyond.”