No takers for special liquor license for chain restaurants

Posted at 8:39 PM, Jul 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-31 00:32:55-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Legislature passed a bill earlier this year designed to free up highly-coveted liquor licenses and lure chain restaurants to the state.

But since the legislation passed, not a single chain restaurant has sought a "master license," FOX 13 News has learned.

"So far, no takers," Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission Chairman David Gladwell said Tuesday. "It's hard to speculate as to why that's the case."

At Tuesday's meeting of the DABC Commission, the room was packed with people seeking liquor licenses. Some, like licenses for clubs and bars are in huge demand. There was only one club license available on Tuesday -- and 11 applicants for it. Those seeking restaurant licenses had no problem getting one; there were even some leftover.

"I've been on the commission for two years and we have plenty of licenses available," Gladwell said of the restaurant liquor permits.

Lawmakers, worried about diminishing licenses stopping chain restaurants from moving into Utah, created a way for more liquor licenses. Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, proposed a "master license" for a restaurant chain to have for all their businesses in the state. It would free up individual licenses for other restaurants.

Gladwell said he did not exactly know why chains haven't sought a master license, but acknowledged it could be economics.

"A master license costs $10,000. Plus, as I understand it, they have to pay the normal license free," he told FOX 13. "As long as there are sufficient licenses available and they can pay the lower fee, we may not have a lot of takers."

Valentine said he did not see that as a negative effect of his legislation. In an interview Tuesday, he said the master license bill was designed to be "self adjusting." If licenses do run low, chains could move to a master license and help others out.

"I think the master license still works. I still think it's necessary," he said. "Because what it does, it gives an option to our business community."

While there is a plethora of liquor licenses available to restaurants, there are no club licenses available. Valentine said he would not propose any changes for bars.

"The bar licenses, or club licenses, are related to population," he told FOX 13. "I don't think we're going to see much change there. The demand, really, by our population, by our 80 percent population who do not drink, is for more restaurants. It's not for more bars."

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