LDS Church weighs in on liquor licenses in Utah

Posted at 4:16 PM, Dec 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-23 00:57:23-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's alcoholic beverage control authority has rejected a liquor license request because of opposition from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission said the LDS Church had expressed its opposition to a wine/beer license being granted to a restaurant in Ogden and another in Santa Clara.

Even Stevens, a sandwich shop known for donating a portion of its profits to feed the hungry, had sought to serve wine and beer at an Ogden location within a few hundred feet of the LDS Church's temple there. But DABC Commission Chairman John Nielsen said the Mormon Church had written a letter opposing it.

"They are voicing strong opposition to this and do not agree to the variance," Nielsen said.

Utah law states that if a restaurant wants a liquor license and they are less than 200 feet from a community location like a church or a school, it cannot be considered. If it's located within 600 feet, that community location can be asked to sign a variance. Restaurants must also obtain local consent from city councils and the DABC.

In its deliberations, Nielsen noted there were other liquor licensees within the same area.

"There are about 30 liquor outlets of one form or another within a short distance from Even Stevens," he said. "So the requirement for an unmet need doesn't seem to be there."

The commission voted unanimously to reject the license application. A representative for Even Stevens declined to comment on Tuesday. The LDS Church also declined to comment.

In the case of the Granary Cafe in Santa Clara, the DABC granted a license. Nielsen said LDS Church representatives had also voiced opposition, but the church said it filed no formal objection.

The cafe is located near an LDS stake center in southern Utah. The DABC pointed out that Granary Cafe owners Wayne and Patricia Johnson had gotten local consent from Santa Clara City Council members, public comment seemed largely in favor of their request for a wine/beer license, and they were the only liquor licensee in town.

Picking up their license on Tuesday, the Johnsons were happy with the decision on their restaurant.

"I think it's positive on the liquor commission that they just didn't go with whatever the church said," Wayne Johnson told FOX 13.

Patricia Johnson said they worked hard for it, but tried to stay positive throughout the application process.

"We did everything we're supposed to do -- positively," she said. "You can't lose hope."