Leaders in South Jordan and Herriman have — at least in modern times — been able to keep bars out of their cities.
Times are changing, though, and later this month both south Salt Lake Valley communities could finally be home to 21-and-older drinking establishments.
The cities have been forced to make the change, thanks to a state law that eliminates Utah’s unique dining club designation.
Business owners who have the special dining club liquor license from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control have until July 1 to decide whether they want to get a restaurant liquor license (which requires patrons to order food with alcoholic beverages) or a bar license (which allows only those 21 and older on the premises).
Dining clubs are a hybrid of the two licenses and offer more freedom. That’s why — since 2017, when the change was approved as part of a massive overhaul of Utah’s liquor laws — dining club owners had fought to keep the designation. Like a bar, the dining club allows adults to drink alcoholic beverages, without also having to order food. But minors are allowed inside when accompanied by adults.
By allowing business owners to choose their new liquor license designation, state lawmakers failed to consider what cities may want, explained South Jordan City Attorney Ryan Loose.
“No one considered local consent,” he told City Council members during a recent study session. “They never thought any city would say no to a bar.”
Which South Jordan has done for decades.
If things go as planed, the new bars in South Jordan will be The Break Sports Grill, 11274 S. Kestrel Rise Road, and Market Street Oyster Bar, 10702 S. River Front Parkway.
In Herriman, ’Bout Time Pub & Grub, 5502 W. 13400 South, will be the first bar.
James “Bam” Peck, the owner of The Break in South Jordan’s booming Daybreak development, said he’d prefer to stay a dining club, but the law won’t allow it.
“Right now,” he said, “the dining club is the best of both worlds.”
Peck said he designed his business to fit the dining club requirements and waited 18 months to get the coveted license from DABC. “Now, five year later, the state says you have to change your game plan.”
He pondered what to do for months, but ultimately Peck decided to change to a bar so that patrons could carry alcoholic beverages around the establishment — something that is not allowed in restaurants, where patrons are required to be seated to order and consume alcohol.
When he approached South Jordan to get the required local consent for a bar, though, council members denied his request, saying city ordinances did not allow for bars.
“Initially,” Peck said, “they told me I had to become a restaurant.”
He then hired a lawyer, who contacted Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, who sponsored the initial legislation. Wilson has told cities he doesn’t want them to take away the bar/restaurant choice called for in the law.
Reluctantly, the South Jordan City Council decided to change its bar policy.
In the coming weeks, Loose said, it is expected to change the wording to allow only those businesses that held dining clubs at the time the new law was approved in 2017 to become bars.
The Break and Market Street Oyster Bar are the only two businesses in the city that fit that description. No others bars likely would be allowed, Loose said. The city also would prevent the bar license from transferring to a new owner.
City leaders “can change [the policy of not allowing any more bars] somewhere down the line,” Mayor Dawn Ramsey said during the meeting. “But let’s not force it to change and have an open market. I don’t think that is what our residents want.”
Herriman didn’t have an ordinance that allowed bars, either, said spokeswoman Tami Moody.
But when ’Bout Time asked to become a bar, “support from the City Council was unanimous,” she said, adding that the city also is in the process of reworking ordinances to possibly accommodate more bars.
“With the opening of the Zions Bank Real Academy Stadium,” Moody said, “the city has received interest from and is working with a number of sports bars that are considering opening a business in Herriman.”
A state liquor store also is expected to open next year in Herriman.