Park City liquor store: There is a shot it reopens soon
Utah alcohol regulator says the date depends on hiring timeline
There is a shot the state liquor store on Swede Alley will reopen soon.
Utah alcohol regulators on Tuesday temporarily closed the Swede Alley location for an unspecified period of time. The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has said the closure is based on a staffing shortage.
The temporary closure, though, was timed as Park City enters what the tourism industry hopes is a strong stretch of the winter. And the unusual move also raised at least some worries about the prospects of a permanent closure of the location. An official with the department this week noted the Swede Alley store’s importance to tourism as he said the location will reopen.
“We are not going to let that store stay closed for good. That store will reopen,” said Terry Wood, the director of communications.
He said the department hopes to reopen the location as early as the middle of February or by the end of that month. If that timeline is met, there is a possibility of a reopening around the weekend of Presidents Day, which is normally a busy period in Park City that is followed by several weeks of spring-break crowds.
Wood said the timing depends on the ability to adequately staff the location for normal operating hours.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is encountering some of the same staffing issues in Park City that the private sector has long struggled to overcome. Many rank-and-file workers are priced out of the Park City area’s resort-driven real estate market, forcing commutes from outlying areas like Wasatch County as well as the Salt Lake Valley. Some of those workers see the wages in Park City as not warranting the commute.
Wood said the department has difficulty hiring full-time employees as well as those working on a part-time basis at the Main Street location. He said the hourly compensation at the stores in Park City and Moab, another resort community, are higher than elsewhere based on the cost of living in the two areas. A full-time retail sales clerk in the Park City and Moab locations starts at a wage of $13.50 per hour, while the same position starts at an hourly wage of $11.32 elsewhere.
The starting wage for a retail sales clerk amounts to a little more than $28,000 per year for someone working 40 hours per week. An annual compensation in that range significantly narrows the housing options in the Park City area. Places leased at market prices can climb well past $800 per bedroom.
Wood said there is a possibility legislators will budget additional monies for Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control wages, but it is not clear if the funds will be earmarked as the state budget is crafted during the current Statehouse session.
The state alcohol regulators in announcing the temporary closure said it was expected to last at least several weeks. The announcement said staffing has been an issue since the outset of the spread of the novel coronavirus, with staffing shortages at many of the liquor stores in the state. Park City was “especially hard hit,” the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said in the announcement.
The staffers at the Swede Alley location were moved on a temporary basis to the liquor store at Snow Creek, which remains open. The liquor store at Kimball Junction also remains open. The Sidewinder Drive store, serving restaurants, bars and the hospitality industry, is also open.
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A former mayor of Park City, Jack Thomas, recently testified at a Park City Planning Commission meeting regarding the concept for a major development at Snow Park, essentially praising the overarching vision but cautioning the review will likely be extensive.