The State Room will keep its bar license after a last-minute mix-up at the DABC

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah's only Punch Bowl Social, an "eater-tainment" venue with food, cocktails and games, closed in 2020.

The State Room’s demise has been greatly exaggerated.

The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control mistakenly announced Monday that the downtown music venue had failed to pay its $2,000 annual renewal fee on time and, thus, would forfeit its bar license.

However, The State Room did bring in a last-minute check to the state liquor office and an employee was on hand to accept it, said DABC spokesman Terry Wood. The error wasn’t discovered until Tuesday morning.

“It would not be fair to punish them,” Wood said, “since an employee was still present in the building sometime after 5 p.m.”

Bar owners in Utah had until Aug. 31 to pay the annual fee or risk losing the sought-after liquor permit.

The usual renewal date for is May 31, but, in April, the Legislature passed HB4004 granting owners a three-month extension, since many were unable to open during the coronavirus shutdown.

The DABC told bar owners they had until 5 p.m. — when its business office closed — to pay. But language in the extension bill did not specify a time.

Only one bar — Punch Bowl Social at The Gateway — has relinquished its license. It now will be made available to other business owners wishing to open 21 and older clubs. There currently are nine businesses on the waitlist.

As The State Room’s untimely demise spread, co-owners Chris Mautz said his cell phone — and that of his business partner Darin Piccoli — “were lighting up like we were at a concert.”

The DABC announcement “was a simple misunderstanding,” Mautz said. And while “it caused a little stress and the heart rate to go up,” the owners have every intention of reopening the concert venue, which has been closed since mid-March, and serving alcohol.

“We are not going anywhere,” Mautz said, adding that the outpouring from the community is appreciated during these difficult times.

“What amazing support we have received at the thought this could happen,” he said. “It just calls attention to the music business and that independent venues are really in a tough spot.”

Last week, 59 Utah bars had not yet renewed their state liquor licenses and DABC officials were unsure how many of the owners who took the extension were procrastinating and how many simply couldn’t afford to renew.

Of the 310 bars in Utah, more than 100 took advantage of the deferral.

The Legislature approved a similar extension for all restaurants, hotels, reception centers and banquet facilities, which normally must renew liquor licenses by Sept. 30. Under HB6006, those businesses now have until Dec. 21 to pay the DABC.

Business owners who want a bar license from the state must apply with the DABC and then wait until one becomes available through an increase in population — state law allows one bar for every 10,200 people.

The Legislature could lower the quota and make more bar licenses available. However, Rep. Timothy Hawkes, the Centerville Republican who sponsors most of Utah’s liquor legislation, said on the “Utah Booze News” podcast that is not likely to happen in the near future.

A license could become available before then — if another bar shuts down and relinquishes its license. Businesses can also buy bar licenses from other owners. Because the permits are in short supply, they have sold for as much as $50,000 in recent months.

Two years ago, the state had a similar shortage, with some business owners waiting more than a year to get a bar license. The waiting list dwindled in 2018, after the Legislature tweaked liquor laws. That initially alleviated the bar license shortage.

But it was only a temporary fix. The list has grown again. And chances of getting a bar license are slim. Only two permits are expected to become available through population increases during the last quarter of 2020.