Foodservice Equipment Reports

Chains Rejoice: Utah Adds 90 Liquor Licenses

Just weeks after FER Fortnightly reported on the expansion problems chains are experiencing with Utah’s restricted number of liquor licenses, the business-minded state has jumped off the wagon to address the problem. Last week, the Utah Legislature approved a bill to issue 90 new liquor licenses to alleviate the backlog in applications; 33 liquor license applications were pending. At least three chains are among the 31 restaurants awaiting licenses, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. They include five Wing Nutz units, three proposed Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants, and three Long Horn Steakhouse outlets.

Restaurant developers have complained for years that Utah’s tight quota on liquor licenses was strangling their efforts to expand in the state. Funding additional restaurant enforcement was key in making the increase in licenses more palatable to legislators.

"This is a fair balance between the concern of public safety and accessibility," said Sen. John Valentine, the sponsor of the bill. Gov. Gary Herbert, who had called for a special session of the Legislature to address the issue, is expected to quickly sign the legislation.

In addition to adding 50 full-service licenses for all types of alcohol and 40 limited-service licenses—permitting only wine and beer—the legislation adds four new enforcement officers at the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and provides funding for additional highway patrol troopers to conduct DUI blitzes. Under the bill, the enforcement gets some of its funding from a 10% increase on the fees that businesses pay for their licenses. No operators protested that move.

According to the Tribune, Rob Reynard, an attorney for Buffalo Wild Wings, told lawmakers that the chain has restaurants scheduled to open in Lehi and Layton and hopes to open at least four more in the state, provided it can get the liquor licenses it needs. "Buffalo Wild Wings is very excited about the prospect of being able to get these licenses."

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