State forces Utah's dining clubs to choose identity: Bar or restaurant

Saturday , April 28, 2018 - 5:00 AM3 comments

OGDEN — The ebb and flow of Utah’s liquor laws has sunk the successful business model of an Ogden establishment that found a niche as a “dining club.”

Effective July 1, dining clubs will be no more under state law. Their owners now must choose to license as a bar or a restaurant.

The dining club change accompanies the dissolution of the much-derided “Not a Bar” signs the state required alcohol-serving restaurants to post for a year.

RELATED: Prices rise, partitions fall under new Utah liquor law

Beau Bradbury, the operating owner of the Angry Goat Pub & Kitchen, 2570 Washington Blvd., is planning the business’s transition to a bar.

Until the law changed, things were fine, he said.

“A dining club license is a normal liquor license anywhere else but Utah,” Bradbury said. “People can come in and just have a drink and not have to eat, and also bring your kids if someone with them is over 21. But with the new change, we’re going to lose all that clientele.”

Continuing under a bar license, the Angry Goat will serve only adult customers, with no minors allowed.

“We are all about the food and pairing a drink with the food,” Bradbury said. “We’ll keep that up and continue to make it a welcoming spot for people.”

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According to a licensee list obtained from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, just three businesses in Weber County are dining clubs: The Angry Goat, Andy’s Club on north Washington Boulevard in Ogden, and 745 Sports Bar and Grill in Eden. Burrito Grande Mexican Restaurant in Clearfield also is a dining club.

“Lots of our customers who have kids, we might see them when they’re alone, but when they have kids and want to eat, they’re going to have to go somewhere else,” Bradbury said. “I think it’s going to affect us negatively.”

It would not be feasible for the Angry Goat to choose the restaurant license path, Bradbury said, because of the ratio of food to alcohol sales the state requires.

To receive a restaurant liquor license, as of July 1, a business must have at least 64 percent of its sales in food. That requirement will increase to 68 percent in 2019 and 70 percent in 2021, according to the state.

The Angry Goat’s sales are about 60 percent food, Bradbury said.

“We sell a lot of higher-end beers, and then compare that to a $12 sandwich,” he said, meaning the higher food sales percentage would be tough to reach.

The law now does allow a third option, said Terry Wood, spokesman for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

A business could apply for both bar and restaurant liquor licenses, but to operate both it would be required to have a 7-foot high wall between the two and separate entryways in the vestibule “so kids would not have to pass through the bar to get to the bathroom.” Wood said.

One of the liquor legislation’s sponsors, Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Layton, said in previous coverage that many of the changes, such as the signs, were meant to help consumers identify the characteristics of bars and restaurants. 

But the seemingly ever-shifting smorgasbord of Utah liquor laws, massaged each year by the Legislature, can’t be easily explained, Bradbury said.

“I’m just speculating, but what I think they’re doing is trying to simplify everything, but they’re really oversimplifying it,” he said.

The Angry Goat opened last year as a dining club, and now, “Oh, hey, we’re a bar,” Bradbury said. “They’re not really solving anything. You walk into a place but no kids are allowed ... it’s already so confusing at this point, they change the law all the time ... we have these weird rules, the ‘Zion Curtain’ or the ‘Zion Moat.’”

He said the solution is, “Let parents be parents and adults be adults, and stop all the confusion.”

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SEMarkShenefelt.

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