A coveted club license on Main
September 25, 2015
Last year Utah began allowing club licenses to be purchased directly from existing license holders, rather than waiting for one to become available through the regular system. There are currently 13 applicants waiting for a club license from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and "some of them have waited almost two years," according to Vickie Ashby, the DABC’s public information officer.
Silver Restaurant, located at 508 Main Street, closed for business in May when its building was sold to a new owner. Silver requested an "extended closure" of 60 days from the DABC, which would allow it to keep its club license, so that it could either negotiate a new lease or find a new location.
On July 6, Silver informed the DABC that its efforts had failed. It requested, and was granted, an additional 30-day extension of its license so that it could find a buyer and sell it.
On Aug. 25, Silver told the DABC at its monthly meetings that it had found a buyer for its license, Falcon PC Main Street LLC. That company was also working out a lease for the space at 508 Main St. formerly occupied by Silver.
Falcon PC Main Street LLC is tangentially connected to St. Regis Deer Valley, though they have no direct relationship. "Some of the financial backers for the St. Regis are also some of the financial backers for the restaurant," explained Thomas Bennett, an attorney at Ballard Spahr who is representing Falcon PC Main Street.
DABC employees and commissioners pushed back on Silver’s latest request for more time at the Aug. 25 meeting.
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"Yes, licenses are allowed to be transferred, however there [are] also operational restrictions that are throughout the entire statute," said DABC Director of Compliance Nina McDermott. "I think it’s very clear that these licenses need to be used. We have 13 applications for club applicants, about six of those are already operational and could use that license today. It’s very concerning to the department. How long can a person hold onto a license to be able to broker it or to sell it is really what’s concerning the department. There needs to be some sort of limit."
"The department’s concern is that even if you’re able to get up and running in 30 days, this license will have gone unused for six months," said an attorney advising the DABC, Sheila Page. "There are a number of other businesses, in Park City even, that are up and running and could have used that license immediately."
Silver and Falcon PC Main Street LLC’s attorneys explained that they were continuing to make progress on the license transfer and were eventually granted more time from the DABC.
"I’ll take Mr. Gamble at his word because I know him and I trust him that the application will be filed no later than Sept. 10," said DABC Chairman John Nielsen, referring to attorney Jay Gamble, who represented both Silver and Falcon PC Main Street LLC. "I’m prepared to do that because I think this would be a good operation. But boy it can’t go beyond that, that would be seven months."
Bennett said the transfer application was filed by the Sept. 10 deadline. If approved at the next monthly meeting, on Sept. 27, Falcon PC Main Street LLC will have 30 days to have its new restaurant operational or it will forfeit the club license.
DABC Commissioner Olivia Vela Agraz told Gamble the department was trying to be as accommodating as it could be.
"Jay, at our compliance meeting this morning we really put our heads together, all of us here, because we really want your success. But we’re coming from a place where our hands are really tied by a lot of the law and what we do for you, you know, then other people feel like they’re not getting what they need."
The new restaurant will be called Tupelo, which says it will feature "heirloom ingredient-driven cuisine with a deep, yet playful understanding of regional heritage and modern technique." The menu will be created by Chef Matthew Harris, who opened J&G Grill and the St. Regis Bar at St. Regis Deer Valley, among others.
A club license is important to Tupelo, Bennett said, because of the extra regulations the state places on typical restaurant licensees.
"If you had a regular restaurant license for a new restaurant you would have to basically put up one of those things they call Zion Curtains, you know that blocks the preparation of any of the cocktails and things, and so this [club license] allows you to have a place that looks like a normal bar and restaurant combination," he said.
At its Sept. 27 meeting, the DABC will have one club license newly available for 13 applicants. It will discuss four club license transfers, including Silver’s.
"People really try to keep their club licenses because they’re so valuable. And they should, you know, they’re hard to get," said Ashby.
"They’re really coveted licenses," she said.