TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will hand out 9 1/2 highly coveted bar licenses starting in June.
It's not a complete re-working of bar licenses that DABC commissioners sought. This year, the Utah State Legislature refused to add any new licenses. Instead, lawmakers re-worked how hotel licenses are allocated and freed up the nine new bar licenses (the half license is a "seasonal," good for about six months).
As a liquor control state, Utah law makes bar licenses available by an arbitrary population quota of one per 10,200 residents. As the state's population grows, so do the number of licenses.
At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, the DABC commission took public comment on how it should use the newly available licenses. Most bar owners waiting for a license urged commissioners to consider places still under construction and close to opening. Because of the limited availability of licenses, the DABC triages who is ready to open immediately. On Tuesday, there were 16 applicants with five ready to open now.
Roha Brewing was awarded a bar license. Commissioners opted to hold on to another license until next month. The next license by population will be available in June.
DABC commissioners have been vocal in urging the legislature to address the lack of licenses. They have had support from Governor Spencer Cox, who also thinks the state should add more bar licenses. But legislators have resisted it, arguing that there are alcohol abuse and public safety concerns to take into consideration.
DABC Commission Chair Thomas Jacobson told FOX 13 News on Tuesday they were not done discussing it.
"I think we’ll be talking about that during the year and looking at what we have to do next year. As was reported at our meeting today, Utah expects to have over 4 million people at the end of the decade," he said. "It’s got to be assumed that some of those people want to purchase alcohol and enjoy alcohol responsibly in bars. So we’ve got to come up with some answers."