In a lightning-fast Zoom meeting, Utah’s liquor commission hands out its last two bar licenses

A Salt Lake City social club and an Ogden pinball bar get their liquor licenses.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Edison House Social Club at 335 S. 200 West in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. The private social club, scheduled to open soon, was awarded a bar license on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022.

With lightning speed, the board that oversees Utah’s liquor laws issued two of its coveted bar licenses Thursday — to a social club in Salt Lake City and a pinball-themed bar in Ogden.

Members of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services’ commission voted unanimously to approve the bar licenses for Edison House, at 355 S. 200 West in Salt Lake City, and Lit Arcade Bar, at 2432 Washington Blvd in Ogden. The meeting, held remotely over Zoom, took just six minutes.

Commissioners had discussed the applications for both businesses at the board’s last regular meeting on Oct. 25, board chair Juliette Tennert noted. At that meeting, the board punted on awarding licenses to Lit Arcade and Edison House, awarded one bar license to the LGBTQ+ bar Verse in Salt Lake City, and revoked the license for The Sandtrap Cafe in Ogden, which had been closed since July after a kitchen fire.

Before the vote, Mike Bishop, DABS’ licensing and compliance specialist, said that he had spoken with the business licensing offices for Salt Lake City and Ogden — and that both businesses had finished their inspections, and everything met statutory requirements.

The vote for Lit Arcade — which features vintage pinball machines for customers to play — was first. Owner Nate Smith could be seen applauding in his Zoom square.

“We are extremely grateful for everybody’s efforts, all the hard work that went into this,” Smith told The Tribune after the meeting. “The commission has been great to work with. We’re humbled and excited to move forward. It’s been a challenging process, but we’re ready to hit the ground running.”

Then came the vote for Edison House, a three-story private social club that will include a fitness center, a theater, a rooftop bar that borders a swimming pool, a piano lounge and a karaoke bar. Co-owner Charlie Cardon could be seen smiling broadly as the license was approved.

Cardon, in a statement, said, “We’re thrilled to be opening our doors and are thankful to the Commission and DABS for their guidance through the process.”

The commission and DABS staff, Cardon added, “do a great job given the precarious situation the Legislature has put them in. Small business owners take on tremendous risk under the current system of license allocation as prescribed by the Legislature, and it is our sincere hope that lawmakers will make common sense changes in the upcoming session so Utah can live up to its reputation as a pro-business state.”

Thursday’s approvals leave the commission with only two seasonal bar licenses available to issue at its next meeting, on Nov. 29, a DABS spokesperson said. Another full-time bar license will be available in December, due to population increases in the state, the spokesperson said. At least eight businesses have applications awaiting DABS approval.

The number of available bar licenses is limited by the state’s population, based on a formula set by the Utah Legislature. The only other way bar licenses become available is if an existing business loses theirs, voluntarily or not.

Those limits have made the current environment stressful for Utah’s bar owners, Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke reported Tuesday. One of those owners, Shari Beck, co-owner of Woody’s Tavern in Moab, is facing the loss of her business due to a technicality over a brief closure. The Becks plan to attend the Nov. 29 meeting to challenge the commission’s decision.