A 21-month wait for a club liquor license came to an end on Tuesday when the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission issued one of Utah's coveted permits to Escala Provisions Company at the Hyatt hotel at Canyons Resort.
With the club license--an upgrade from the restaurant license it already has--Escala will now be able to serve booze in plain view of its customers, and those imbibing will no longer be forced to wash down their beverages with food.
The club license, which costs $3,150, was handed out despite a violation last month at Escala that involved serving someone a drink without asking them to order food.
Commissioner John Nielsen expressed some concern with issuing a club license to an establishment that so recently incurred a violation, but ultimately voted to support the action.
Nine other restaurants and bars are waiting for a club license, including Sapa Suchi Bar, Red Rock Junction in Park City and Sidetrack Cafe in Heber City. All were passed up in favor of Escala, largely because it had been waiting the longest, said Vickie Ashby, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The state issues new licenses only after it has been determined that a greater number is needed to accommodate a rise in the state's population. Therefore, each year, due to population growth, some new licenses come available. This was the case for Escala's new license, which was the last of its kind available until the population is recalculated.
The other way to obtain a license, Ashby says, is if a licensee goes out of business or must forfeit the license for other reasons.
“That's where we are right now,” Ashby said. “That's why it takes a while to get a license.”
The commission denied a request from Diamond Concessions, the concessionaire at the Maverick Center, for three special permits to dispense liquor and wine.
Agostino DiGiacomo, food and beverage director for Diamond, said he has received such permits in the past and isn't completely certain as to why his requests are now being denied.
“They denied us, but the thing that's confusing is we've been granted these in the past but for some reason, they denied us,” he said.
Some commission members expressed concern that Maverik Center was using the special permits, which have allowed Diamond to sell liquor and wine, to avoid the the hassle of obtaining a club license, of which none are currently available.
Commissioner Nielsen said granting the permit could “open Pandora’s box,” prompting other organizations who lack a club license to seek multiple special event permits to serve.
DiGiacomo insisted this wasn't the case, but the board unanimously denied his request for the permits. DiGiacomo said he likes to tailor the special event permits to the event. For instance, he told City Weekly after the meeting that he wouldn't necessarily want liquor and wine sold at a heavy metal show. Beer suffices, he said. But at a Neil Diamond show, for example, DiGiacomo said he likes to have wine and cocktails on hand.
The permits that were denied would have allowed sales of liquor and wine at several Utah Grizzlies Hockey matches between Feb. 28 and April 12.
DiGiacomo said this isn't the first time rules have changed. He said the special event permit licenses have at times allowed his patrons to carry their drinks back into the arena, and at other times restrictions have been placed on where the beverages can be consumed.
“The rules have changed throughout the game many times,” he said.
The commission also viewed a report that showed underage drinking in Utah, when gauged over a 30-day period, has dropped by 6 percent since 2005 and is 15 percent below the national average. Officials at the DABC said Utah has the lowest percentage of underage drinkers in the nation. This decrease has occurred in-step with an overall increase in alcohol consumption in the state. The report shows that Utahns consumed 2.6 gallons of booze in 2013 compared to 1.97 gallons in 2005, a 32 percent jump.
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