Two bars and 2 Mexican restaurants among businesses awarded liquor licenses

Utah’s liquor commission will be operating from a place of license scarcity until the Legislature makes a change, the chair said.

With board members continuing to warn about a scarcity of liquor permits, Utah’s liquor commission approved licenses for two bars and two Mexican restaurants Thursday, and granted conditional licenses to five businesses.

The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services’ commission, at its monthly meeting Thursday in Salt Lake City, awarded a bar license to LaSabre Club, at 44 N. Merchant St. in American Fork. According to the club’s Facebook page, it is the city’s only bar.

The other bar license was awarded to OnTop Lounge, at 328 S. State St., Salt Lake City. As of Wednesday, there was no signage outside.

The two restaurants to which the commission awarded full-service licenses are Tacos El Guero, at 281 N. Main St. in Heber, and Taqueria 27, at 3578 E. Pony Express Parkway in Eagle Mountain.

Tacos El Guero has a broad menu with a host of Mexican classics, such as burritos, quesadillas, tortas, enchiladas, birria dishes, tacos and fajitas. Taqueria 27 seems to focus on tacos with unique ingredients, including pork belly, grilled pears and duck confit.

Both Mexican restaurants have multiple locations: Taqueria 27 along the Wasatch Front, and Tacos El Guero in the Salt Lake Valley and Wasatch Back.

The establishments that received conditional licenses are:

Tsunami Restaurant & Sushi Bar in Salt Lake City, projected opening Feb. 1.

Courtyard Orem University Place in Orem, projected opening Feb. 1.

Tia’s Artisan Bakery & Restaurant in St. George, projected opening Feb. 1.

Kimi’s Chop & Oyster House in Holladay, projected opening Feb. 7.

• Toro Steak & Cocktails in South Jordan, projected opening Feb. 9.

Commissioners said the board projects it will have 10 bar licenses available next month, and 39 full-service restaurant licenses.

The commission also continued its ongoing conversation about awarding conditional licenses to bars that aren’t yet ready to open.

Chair Tara Thue said that the commission has heard from a lot of applicants that there’s a need to award conditional licenses to business owners who have invested in their establishments and want a level of certainty they’ll receive an official license when their businesses open.

But, Thue said, “the main issue that I have with awarding licenses on a conditional basis before somebody is ready to open is that we need all the ducks to be in a row, unfortunately, and people ready to go. Because once we award the license, that license is encumbered for 18 months.”

Thue continued, “there is nothing that this commission can do to pull back a license if someone runs into a serious delay that is no making of their own.”

She said that the Utah Legislature, now in session, is starting work on its annual omnibus liquor bill — which may include a change in the population quota that governs how many bar and restaurant licenses the state issues. Until the Legislature acts, she said, “we are still in a position where we are operating from a place of scarcity.”

Also at the meeting, DABS staff shared a new statistic about underage drinking that will soon be seen on signs at state-owned liquor stores.

The signs read “49% of Utah kids who drink underage do so at home with their parents’ permission. Underage drinking even while supervised is not safe.” The message is part of DABS’ Parents Empowered campaign, which encourages parents to set no-drinking rules with their children.

The next meeting of the liquor commission is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 29.