Bill would allow more Utah restaurants to serve alcohol

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Black Sheep Cafe in Provo opened for business in February last year but didn’t receive a liquor license until October. (Photo by Stephanie Probert)

A Utah bill that would allow restaurants to open new locations without having to wait for a liquor license has passed the senate and moved on to the House Rules Committee.

The bill, S.B. 167, also known as the Alcoholic Beverage Control Amendments, would make more liquor licenses available for restaurants that want to expand their business. After obtaining a master license for $1,500, restaurants could obtain additional licenses for other locations simply by paying a $2,200 fee.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, who is sponsoring the bill, said restaurant chains cannot expand if they don’t know if a license will be available.

“This gives them predictability in making business decisions,” Valentine said.

Colby Peterson, a server at La Jolla Groves at the Riverwoods in Provo and in charge of alcohol training at the restaurant, said this bill is something that really needs to happen.

“There is a huge waiting list for restaurants right now so if you wanted to open a restaurant, you could open it, but you wouldn’t be able to serve alcohol for a long time,” Peterson said.

Peterson said when he worked at Silver restaurant in Park City they couldn’t obtain a full liquor license for about a year.

“We had a seasonal license at first so we could only do certain things at certain times,” Peterson said. “The bartenders weren’t allowed to just serve a drink over the table so all the drinks had to be made back behind in a little service bar and then run them out.”

He said the lack of a full liquor license negatively impacted their business.

“People hated it,” Peterson said. “It took forever for them to get a drink because the drinks couldn’t be made right there at the bar. It made it a lot more difficult, and it was also hard to watch the floor when you had to keep going in the back to make drinks.”

He said he thinks many will not think twice about paying the increased cost for obtaining a liquor license if it means they don’t have to wait for it.

“People don’t like waiting, especially for alcohol,” he said.

Susie Vejvoda, the manager of Black Sheep Cafe in Provo, recently moved from Scottsdale, Ariz., and said she was surprised by how tight Utah’s liquors laws are.

She said Black Sheep Cafe opened for business in February last year but didn’t receive a liquor license until October.

“We cater to a different class of people,” Vejvoda said. “We get a lot of people from Salt Lake, Park City and Sundance, so it’s nice to have the full liquor license along with our great menu to give everyone a little bit of something.”

She said people would ask for alcohol at the restaurant before they had a liquor license.

“It took a lot of work and time to get the license,” Vejvoda said. “But there’s definitely a want for it, and business has grown because we’ve had it.”

Vejvoda said they are hoping to open other locations of Black Sheep Cafe in Utah so this bill would make it easier for them to expand.

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