Why a pyramid is keeping this SLC bakery from obtaining a liquor license

Forty Three Bakery is ‘not in a great spot’ financially, said the owner, and being able to sell alcohol would help.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Andrew Corrao, the owner of Forty Three Bakery, on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023.

The owner of a west-side Salt Lake City bakery said he is struggling to stay in business, and he believes getting a liquor license would help with that.

But the problem, according to the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services (DABS) and Utah law, is that his business is too close to a church.

Pastry chef Andrew Corrao, who opened Forty Three Bakery in Poplar Grove last fall, said his business is financially “not in a great spot.”

It’s been a slow winter for the bakery, which is located in a renovated warehouse that required an extensive buildout to open. Corrao is still trying to pay off construction debts, and just had to finance the installation of a $25,000 drop-down ceiling over his kitchen. He also got new insurance in anticipation of starting to sell alcohol, which raised his yearly rate from $1,200 to $12,000.

Corrao had to install the drop-down ceiling in order to replace his conditional business license with an official business license, which he needed to receive a liquor license. He views the ceiling as money he sunk into someday getting a liquor license, but DABS spokesperson Michelle Schmitt said the department doesn’t look at that “level of specificity,” and only cares if a business is licensed in the city in which it’s located.

The big issue came later. According to Schmitt, it’s a legal requirement that an establishment that’s licensed to sell alcohol must be a certain distance away from churches, schools and other “community locations”: 200 feet as measured in a straight line, and 300 feet as measured using pedestrian pathways, from the entrance of the business to the community location’s property line.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) The pyramid of the Summum religious organization in Salt Lake City, Monday, March 18, 2024.

Forty Three Bakery is located at 733 Genesee Ave., in Salt Lake City, and the Summum Pyramid — a church whose rites include “modern mummification” — has been at 707 Genesee Ave. for decades.

“The Church of Summum was established in 1975 and has been in its location for almost 50 years,” the faith said in an emailed statement. “Our pyramid is our sanctuary and place of worship, and we expect the same protections as any other religion.”

[Read more: Why is a pyramid in Salt Lake City licensed to make wine?]

Schmitt said department staff measured the distance between the bakery and the pyramid three times during a visit on Feb. 16.

Department staff took the “straight line” measurement from the bakery to the pyramid using a laser pointer and a measurement wheel, Schmitt said. The “straight line” measurement using the laser at the bakery’s north and south doors was 173 feet at both doors. The “straight line” measurement using the wheel was 179 feet from the north door, and slightly more from the south.

The “walking distance” was 184 feet from the north door to the pyramid. Because the “straight line” measurements and the “walking distance” from the north entrance didn’t meet the proximity requirements, it wasn’t necessary to measure the “walking distance” from the south door as well, Schmitt said.

At the least, the bakery ended up being 21 feet too close to the pyramid as the crow flies, and 116 feet too close if a pedestrian were to walk on the sidewalk from the bakery to the pyramid.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) The entrance to Forty Three Bakery seen near the Summum religious organization, left, in Salt Lake City, Monday, March 18, 2024.

Corrao said he talked with two DABS staff members, who told him there was nothing he could do about the proximity law.

Schmitt reiterated that position to The Salt Lake Tribune. “When it comes to proximity requirements, the law is very clear and inflexible,” she said. “The department cannot legally provide alcohol licensing if the business does not meet the proximity requirements.”

The only option DABS gave Corrao, he said, would be to install a door on the west side of his building; the department hasn’t officially measured that distance yet. But since he would have to relocate an ADA ramp to make that work, Corrao said it’s not financially feasible. If he ended up moving his main door to the west side of the bakery, Schmitt said, he would have to start his liquor license application over.

Corrao said he understands the need for a “reasonable” proximity law. But he added that “liquor laws in this state are just not conducive for people to be successful.”

Schmitt told The Tribune that “the DABS supports hospitality, food and beverage businesses that are economic and cultural drivers in our state.”

“We work hard to inform business owners of the legal and safety requirements for obtaining alcohol licensing within the state of Utah,” Schmitt continued. “... We encourage anyone wanting to sell alcohol at their business to contact the department early to understand all that is required and so we can support them in opening and operating their business.”

The original vision for Forty Three Bakery, Corrao said, was to develop a dinner and evening dessert menu, and pair that with wine and local beer. He also said he wanted to hold private events in the space, and that “having liquor sales would have been a big part of that.”

Corrao said that there aren’t many businesses like Forty Three Bakery in Poplar Grove that are also community spaces, especially ones that are a bakery, coffee shop and bar.

He said that Forty Three Bakery and the future developments around it could someday be an “entrance” to Poplar Grove from the east side.

“So many people are afraid, or scared or resistant, to cross the train tracks and go on the other side of the freeway, because they think the west side is this foreign, scary place,” he said. “And I think creating spaces like this would have helped bridge that gap in a really cool way.”

Clarification: March 20, 8:51 a.m.An earlier version of this article was unclear on DABS’ process for measuring the distance between the bakery entrance and the pyramid.