Businesses pull out all the stops to get a liquor license in Utah

Posted at 9:45 PM, Dec 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-16 23:45:56-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- One by one they stood in line, making their case to Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

"This is my 14th consecutive meeting," one man pleaded.

"We're the premiere hotel and convention spot in Ogden," said another. "We've spent tens of millions of dollars."

They were asking to get a highly coveted full-service club liquor license available in the state. There were 13 total applicants for only two available licenses.

With so many  seeking the club licenses, businesses have done what they can to stand out to the DABC commission. Andrew Tendick, one of the owners of the Avenues Proper Bar, handed commissioners a 300-signature petition from customers urging the DABC to grant them a club license.

"It's something that we feel not only our establishment needs, it's what we envisioned when we opened up but also our customer base wants and demands of us," Tendick told FOX 13.

Others have submitted letters from community and political leaders in their quest to get a club liquor license. Some talk to the commission about their glowing reviews from food critics, the tourist dollars they bring in, and the community they serve. Businesses are forbidden from personally lobbying DABC commissioners for a license.

On Tuesday, the DABC commission awarded Fletcher's in Park City and Lucky H in the Little America the two available club licenses.

Getting a club license is seen as a boom to business, but state law dictates the licenses are only doled out by population quota. There are no licenses available in January and only one available in February (barring a business relinquishing theirs).

DABC commissioners noted that a full-service license is very competitive, but a presentation is not the only factor that goes into deciding who gets a license.

"We have an obligation to spread these (licenses) around the state. I think we have an obligation to go with small operations, large operations, I think we have an obligation to look at different types of applicants," he said.

Factors include location, physical characteristics of the business, any prior violations, the nature of the operation and the availability of licenses.

The DABC points out that the Utah State Legislature sets the formula for how many licenses are available.

"I think the stakes are high for all the applicants," said Wright. "Personally, I wish we had more club licenses to give. But we are constrained by the population formula and that's the law we live under."