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Home / Articles / News / News Articles /  News | Raise the Bar: Two tavern owners push Salt Lake City to allow true neighborhood bars.
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News | Raise the Bar: Two tavern owners push Salt Lake City to allow true neighborhood bars.

By Ted McDonough
Posted // December 10,2008 -

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When Brian Morris heard developers were readying a section at Salt Lake City’s north end for condos and city fathers were designating the Marmalade area a “district,” he thought the city’s newly minted “gayborhood” should have its own bar.

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A beer bar at 300 West and 700 North had been in business intermittently for 40 years, but closed in 2003. Morris and his partners leased the onetime home of the Cedar Lounge and The Hideout, sunk a couple hundred thousand into remodeling and hung out a shingle for Jam in the Marmalade in October. Inside, the bamboo-floored joint now resembles a Manhattan loft. But it’s still serving beer and only beer. It turns out Salt Lake City isn’t zoned for neighborhood bars.

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Unless you live in central downtown, catching a drink in Salt Lake City typically means getting in the car. Living in the SLC means not being able to go to the neighborhood bar—because there isn’t one. City zoning rules keep private clubs to a closely knit area around downtown. Taverns—beer bars—are allowed only a slightly wider range closer to residential areas.

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But today, the notion that booze should be kept far from home is under scrutiny. Jam in the Marmalade, along with a second beer bar, Andy’s Place, will be petitioning the City Council in coming months to amend zoning in their neighborhoods to allow bars. But it may be too early to call a temperance league protest. Even if the council OKs the changes, the potential reach of private clubs would extend by just 15 more blocks more than on current maps. But some city pols think removing the shackles from bar locations has merit.

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The idea fits with a concept that’s been all the rage in Salt Lake City for the past several years—creating “walkable” neighborhoods that allow shops and restaurants to locate near homes. Why not drinks as well? It’s something City Councilman Luke Garrott would endorse, both as one component of rebuilding once thriving neighborhood commercial areas and as a way to build community.

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“People should have a place to meet friends in the neighborhood for a drink,” he says. “People who live in 9th & 9th are dying for a bar.” There is no reason bars couldn’t be made appropriate for some neighborhoods, he says—kept small-scale, away from homes and operated under special conditions, such as noise control or even early closing hours.

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Everyone knows the city will have to move “very delicately” on any liquor reform, says City Councilman Søren Simonsen. “We know everything we do could be challenged at the state Legislature.” Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s administration has begun a “very preliminary” review of city alcohol zoning and licensing, says David Everitt, Becker’s chief of staff. It’s part of a larger ongoing examination of city zoning that stems from Becker’s campaign pledge to create neighborhood commercial centers.

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The Utah Hospitality Association, the bar owners lobby, isn’t getting involved in the zoning issue—it’s reserving all its ammo for the coming fight in the Legislature over private clubs and membership requirements. But association director Lisa Marcy says for her part, “allowing some limited access, neighborhood ‘Cheers-like’ establishments is a great idea.

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“There tends to be a knee-jerk, panic reaction saying, ‘Not in my back yard; it means we’ll have drunk people driving,’ when actually the converse is true. If it’s in the neighborhood, it will be the neighborhood people going to it. Why are we making people drive from the Avenues to [downtown]? It’s not logical.”

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A future Salt Lake City with a bar on every corner is years away. Current Salt Lake City zoning restricts bars to just two zones in areas dubbed “Gateway,” “downtown” or “manufacturing.” And for now, the council is dealing only with pleas from two taverns asking that private clubs be included as “conditional uses” in their zones. To become private clubs, Andy’s Place, Jam in the Marmalade—and any future proposed clubs—would still need individual hearings.

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First up is Andy’s Place, tentatively scheduled for a public hearing at the City Council Jan. 6. The tavern at 479 E. 300 South is located in the city’s “residential-mixed use” zone that allows taverns, brewpubs and “lounges,” and it’s within a stone’s throw of The Urban Lounge, a private club.

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If approved, Andy’s zoning change would impact a 12-block area in the central city, stretching roughly between 200 East and 500 East and from South Temple to 400 South. A few other small areas of “residential-mixed use” zoning are scattered around the city, at the bottom of Capitol Hill, for example, and near 1500 East below West Temple.

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Jam in the Marmalade’s planned zoning amendment would impact an even smaller area.

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Jam in the Marmalade partner Rob McCarthy says “just the fact that Salt Lake could actually have something called a ‘district’” excited him about getting in on the ground floor of a new neighborhood. But the process has been confusing. He has been working on turning his tavern into a bar for a year now. McCarthy says he doesn’t blame the city, which was going through an overhaul of its planning department just as he was opening the business. Even so, his wait has been brief compared to the owner of Andy’s Place, who petitioned the city to let his tavern become a private club in November 2006.

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McCarthy is preparing a proposal to change Jam in the Marmalade’s zone to allow for private clubs. Getting that passed could take nine months. Only then can he submit a conditional-use application for his business and have more hearings. After that, he can apply for a state private-club license, and if he gets that, a city liquor license.

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McCarthy says he just wants to be a good neighbor. “Give us a chance to upscale the clientele to wine, martinis and cocktails,” he says. “It’s where the neighborhood is moving.”

 
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // December 16,2008 at 10:42 Where the hell is the Marmalade district? And I want a bar in West Valley Dammit! I have to take Trax or Drive all the way downtown to have a decent cocktail in a fun and friendly environment.

 

 
 
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