‘Drinkers’ remain the majority on Utah liquor commission; and DABC to extend store hours

(Photo courtesy of the University of Utah) Juliette Tennert, the chief economist at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, has been appointed to the state liquor commission.

Juliette Tennert , the chief economist at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, is the newest member of the state liquor commission.

Gov. Gary Herbert selected Tennert for the seven-member board that oversees liquor sales and licensing for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. A state Senate committee confirmed her Wednesday, and approval by the full Senate is a foregone conclusion.

Tennert’s experience as as a policy analyst is expected to help steer the state agency that, in 2019, had annual sales of more than $500 million for the first time in state history.

Before joining the Institute, which is part of the Eccles School, Tennert served as the state budget director and chief economist for Herbert, chief economist for former Gov. Jon Huntsman and as a fiscal analyst for the state Legislature.

When asked the million-dollar drinking question during her confirmation hearing, Tennert replied, “I do have beer in my fridge. So, yes, I consume alcohol.”

That means drinkers remain the majority on the sometimes controversial state panel.

Membership on the state liquor commission has been divided along political lines, with Republicans holding the majority of seats and Democrats filling the remaining three spots.

Other commissioners who have said they are social drinkers include:

• Sophia M. DiCaro, a former Republican state representative and the chief compliance officer for the Cynosure Group, an investment advisory firm in Salt Lake City.

• Thomas Jacobson, a Park City attorney.

• Jacquelyn Orton, a Democrat and widow of former U.S. Rep. Bill Orton.

Teetotalers include:

• Chairman John T. Nielsen, a former Salt Lake County prosecutor who directed the Public Safety Department from 1985 to 1989.

• Steven B. Bateman, the former chief executive officer of St. Mark’s Hospital and now a professor at Weber State University.

• Stanley B. Parrish, former Utah business leader.

Tennert replaces attorney Amanda Smith, who stepped down earlier this year, when she changed her party affiliation to Republican — presumably to vote for Huntsman for governor in the primary election.

Smith served as Huntsman’s legislative director and he later appointed her to be the executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Smith talks about her time on the commission — and why commissioners should be familiar with liquor stores and purchasing alcohol — on the latest episode of the “Utah Booze News” podcast. Listen to it here.

Expanded liquor store hours

During November, state-run liquor stores are expected to return to their pre-pandemic business hours — which includes a 10 p.m. closing time for about two dozen outlets.

The phase-in will begin Nov. 2 and continue through Nov. 21, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday — typically the busiest sales week of the year.

There is one caveat to the extended hour plan: It will be based on available staffing, said DABC spokesman Terry Wood. Finding and keeping employees has been especially difficult in recent years because of low pay.

In March, all state-run liquor stores shortened their business hours — from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. — to ensure pandemic safety rules were being met.

Niccoli’s to open in SLC’s mystery food hall

The restaurant space at 270 S. 300 East in Salt Lake City — also known as the mysterious, never-opened Oddfellows Food Hall — will soon be home to Niccoli’s, a new Italian restaurant and market.

Owners Marco and Aubrey Niccoli have put up the sign, are looking for servers and, on Tuesday, received a liquor license from the state.

The restaurant has an impressive pedigree.

Marco Niccoli has been the culinary director for Traeger Grills and previously worked for Culinary Crafts Catering. He grew up in Los Angeles, where his family operated Bruno’s Old World Italian Deli.

In 2019, he was included on the “40 Under 40” list put together by UtahValley360 Magazine.

Several years ago he met Aubrey, also a chef, who is passionate about health, fitness and eating in moderation.

The couple also operates a gourmet food company called am.niccoli.salt in Lehi.