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SLC restaurant owner purchases first liquor license sold privately

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Posted at 10:00 PM, Feb 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-01 20:31:15-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Lawmakers worried that allowing liquor licenses to be put up for sale to the highest bidder would create a black market. Now, the first license has been sold.

Joel LaSalle, a partner for Current Fish and Oyster Bar, chose to opt out of waiting in line for a liquor license from the DABC commission. Instead, he paid for the license previously owned by David's Bar and Grill.

"This is the first dedicated license that will be bought from a private party and taken to a new location," LaSalle said.

LaSalle's restaurant, Current Fish and Oyster Bar, will open in downtown Salt lake City in the next couple weeks.

The sale comes after legislation passed several years ago allowing people with a liquor license to sell it instead of turning the license back in to the DABC. Lawmakers have worried licenses up for sale could spark a bidding war and black market, but LaSalle doesn't believe there's cause for alarm.

"There were big hitters that were looking at this license, there were big companies coming into Salt Lake City. While we outbid them, this is a very reasonable amount and easily justified to open two to three months earlier than we would have," LaSalle said.

Liquor licenses are controlled by a formula set by the Utah State Legislature. Restaurant owners like LaSalle say these licenses are critical for their success.

"It`s a financial burden to buy a building, to renovate a building, get all the improvements put in the building and then not be able to open with a proper license. We just couldn`t financially risk that happening," LaSalle said.