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Utah bar owners forced to make tough choices over lack of bar licenses

Posted at 5:39 PM, Dec 22, 2021

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Restaurant and bar owners continue to be forced to make tough choices due to the lack of bar licenses available by the State of Utah.

On Monday, the namesake location of Trolley Wing Co. closed the door for good at Trolley Square.

“There’s not much to it. We have the oven and the beer in the back, register and the sink over here,” co-owner Jeff Krie said, showing the small space located inside a trolley car.

Three months after opening in Taylorsville, Krie says the business’s fourth location still wasn’t given a coveted bar license that would allow him to serve alcohol.

“We had to make the call and we are all-in in Taylorsville,” Krie said.

Read - Hard seltzers may stay, but no new bar licenses in latest liquor bill

Management closed the iconic trolley location so they could transfer its liquor license over to the bigger Taylorsville restaurant.

“We are strapped right now; we are very strapped.” Krie said.

In Utah, the state legislature set a quote at roughly one license per ten-thousand people. Each month, business owners line up in front of the DABC for a chance to get one. On Tuesday, 13 businesses vied for just one license and the DABC held onto it.

Businesses can also buy a liquor license from one another. That’s how Trolley Wing Co. acquired the trolley location license in the first place — by paying $30,000. That is something Krie said isn’t feasible during the pandemic.

Read - Utah DABC considers 'pop up' liquor stores for NBA All-Star Game

“They need to get more licenses out,” Krie said. “They have people’s whole lives on the line. First-time bar owners have all their money in and they are leaving these meetings in tears because they didn’t want to give them a license for some reason.”

Rep. Timothy Hawkes of Centerville did not get back to FOX13 News Wednesday but told us last month the legislature is not planning to increase the number of bar licenses, saying quote, “We have to balance that availability on one hand with managing social costs on the other.”

Right now, it only looks like a handful of new bar licenses will be made available for all of next year. But trolley wing co says they will re-apply anyway with hopes of getting the trolley back up and running.