Liquor licenses freed up
June 22, 2012
Restaurateurs can breathe a little easier following a decision in the Special Session of the Utah Legislature this week, when lawmakers decided to provide more liquor licenses.
The Special Session was called by the governor after concerns were voiced over the number of available liquor licenses and the July 1 effective date that would allow restaurants to sell their licenses. With a limited number of license available, industry members voiced their fears that the license prices could hyper inflate on the open market from the state-made shortage.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control was quickly running out of its last alcohol licenses, meaning that once the final license was issued, any new restaurant would not be able to sell alcohol. National restaurant chains considering moving into the state said in interim meetings that the lack of licenses would stop their incoming business.
"The ideal solution for us is that anyone qualified to open a restaurant with the means and ability to do so, should be able to obtain a restaurant license," said Hans Fuegi, a board member for the Park City Area Restaurant Association. "It seems silly to restrict the growth of restaurants because there are no licenses available."
Utah Senator John Valentine (R-Orem) sponsored S.B. 4001 "Alcoholic Beverage Control Act Amendments," which passed the Senate with 26 yays, 1 nay and 1 abstaining. In the House, the bill passed with 57 yays, 10 nays and 8 abstaining.
The bill adds 90 liquor licenses for restaurants, delays the date that would allow restaurants to sell their licenses by one year, adds four more alcohol compliance law officers and provides funding to the Utah Highway Patrol for more DUI checks. The bill also increases license fee prices by 10 percent, covering the additional costs of the added alcohol compliance officers and DUI blitzes.
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"This is a fair balance between the concerns for public safety and the concerns of accessibility," Valentine said to the Senate Floor.
The 90 added licenses are broken into 50 full-service licenses allowing restaurants to sell wine, beer and spirits and 40 limited service licenses which allow the sale of wine and beer only. Licenses are issued during monthly DABC meetings, and any restaurant can apply.
"It’s a stop-gap measure," Fuegi said, "not permanent solution. These licenses will be taken up, but it should get us through the next few months at least."
Concerns such as whether or not restaurants will be able to sell their licenses and how many licenses are available will be addressed in next year’s legislative session. During committee meetings, other issues came forward, including the number of available licenses for social clubs, although the legislature only considered restaurant licensing during the special session. More liquor issues may be on the docket in next year’s legislative session.
"Utah is a controlled state and our liquor policies are a balancing act," said Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, Summit County’s representative and member of the Business and Labor Committee that oversaw liquor licensing issues. " We continue to grow as state. In the Park City and Summit County area especially, we have a lot of people travel up for social and recreational activities. It’s important that we try to meet the needs, and this was a good move. I’m glad we were able to address these issues now rather than wait till January."