Employee was living inside a Utah liquor store and drinking during business hours, so the state is shutting the store down

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Liquor for sale at the Utah State Liquor Store. Friday, April 6, 2012.

In Utah, it’s illegal to live inside a liquor store — so you can shelve that dream — and employees are forbidden from drinking the alcoholic products during business hours.

But that was the scenario that liquor enforcement officers encountered April 4 when they stepped into the state-contracted liquor store in Richmond, about 13 miles north of Logan.

To make matters worse, the employee — the store manager and the son of the operator — sold liquor to a minor.

The State Bureau of Investigation “cited the employee," who has since been let go. But on Tuesday, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control commission also decided to shut down the northern Utah package agency beginning May 14 and seek new operators.

“The concern is that this seems to be an issue that has continued for some time,” Deputy Director Cade Meier told the commission. “We feel it’s negligence on the part of the management.”

Utah has more than 120 state package agencies, which are privately run outlets in towns too small to warrant a full-size, state-owned store. Operators get monthly payments from the state based on sales volume. But they are required to follow strict rules about alcohol sales.

It’s not the first time the state has shut down a package agency. In September 2017, the DABC closed the store in Tremonton after routine audits showed a string of money losses.

The longtime operator of the Richmond store, Terry Nivison, apologized to the commission for his son who had been living in the back of the store since getting a divorce.

Since receiving the citations, Nivison’s son has been banned from the store and his grandson, Justin Harris, has already taken over. “He is our new manager and will comply with any changes you want to make.”

Nivison said the family has operated the package agency for decades. “I’ve worked behind the counter for over 70 years,” he said. “And my father [had the contract] before me.”

Despite the plea, the commission decided to terminate the agreement and put it out to a wider bid. Nivison and Harris can submit a proposal, the board said.

“It’s an unfortunate personal issue,” said Commissioner Thomas Jacobson, who held up photographs taken by officers of the personal items found in the back of the store. “But the contractor didn’t supervise that, and it’s clear that it wasn’t the first time [the employee] consumed alcohol while working.”

The Richmond store at 16 W. Main will be closed for at least 30 days, possibly longer, said Meier, while the state puts out the required bid requests and signs off on a new operator.

In the interim, consumers wishing to buy liquor will have travel to either Logan — or Preston, Idaho. The mention of the latter location made those in attendance chuckle — because it’s illegal to bring liquor from outside the state into Utah.