Online sales could soon come to Utah liquor stores

A pilot program at two liquor stores — with limits — depends on funding from the Utah Legislature.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bottles of whiskey line up at a state liquor and wine store in Saratoga Springs, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. The Department of Liquor Control is developing a pilot program to sell whiskey wine and liquor online at two Utah liquor stores.

The agency that regulates liquor sales in Utah is asking the legislature for nearly $3.2 million to launch a pilot program allowing state-run liquor stores to sell liquor online .

Under the Department of Liquor Control’s plan, two liquor stores would launch “click and collect” systems, to sell liquor products online. One of the stores would be the relocated store in West Valley City at 5432 W. High Market Drive, which is slated to open later this year – and is being built to accommodate the online program.

The online sales proposal was part of a bill passed by the Utah Legislature last year and signed by Governor Spencer Cox.

The law allows online ordering of beer at liquor stores, if the retailer only processes payment after the customer has entered the store and verifies that they are 21 or older and “the customer who has placed the order”.

The bill would also allow customers to place an order online at a licensed distillery, beer or winery, or at a state liquor store. Again, the customer would have to enter the business, prove they were 21 or older, and the person who placed the order.

Online liquor sales sparked interest in several states last year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of many bars and restaurants.

During her presentation to lawmakers last week, Tiffany Clason, the agency’s executive director, said online sales are expected to bring in an additional $2,028,432 in revenue in their first year, and up to $10 million. per year thereafter.

DABC is asking lawmakers for $3,184,000 for the pilot program. The agency is also requesting funds to upgrade its computer system, which would allow DABC to accept online payments and license applications. Both demands will be part of the legislature’s omnibus liquor bill.

At Tuesday’s DABC board meeting, only one bar contender was granted a liquor license: Garage Grill, at 12600 S. Mountain View Corridor in Herriman. The grill aims to open this week.

The board’s approval for Garage Grill has drawn objections from the owners of Trolley Wing Co., at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. Trolley Wing closed its Trolley Square location, which seats 14 customers in a refurbished trolley, so owners could transfer the bar’s license to the company’s 340-seat restaurant in Taylorsville, which had been denied a license in December. The owners were hoping to have both facilities open and serve alcohol.

Thomas Jacobsen, Chairman of the Board, noted that “not only [Garage Grill] been waiting for months and months, they’ve been on the list, but they’re in what we would call an underserved area – where, unfortunately, you fall into an area that has other options, shall we say.

The board has limited licenses to grant, Jacobsen said. The distribution of licenses is based on a formula, devised by the legislature, to increase the number of drinking establishments only as the state’s population increases.

At the February meeting, the DABC Board will again only have one bar license to distribute. Commissioner Tara Thue said DABC will only have 51 full-service restaurant licenses for next year – and six of those were handed out on Tuesday. At this rate, she said, DABC will run out of licenses by the end of the summer.

“Next year is going to be an interesting year in the legislature,” commented Jacobsen.

In addition to the Garage Grill, these applicants received license approval from the DABC Board of Directors on Tuesday:

• Study permits: Summit Sips Wine School, Draper; Wine tastings with Denise, Salt Lake City.

• Full-service restaurants: Baek Ri Hyang Korean Restaurant, Salt Lake City; Bigshots Golf, St. George; Bistro by Butler, Salt Lake City; Maria’s Mexican Restaurant, Taylorsville; Mimi’s Cafe, Murray; Ramblin Roads Restaurant, Layton.

• Limited service restaurants: Dirty Bird Fried Chxx, Clearfield; The French spot, Cedar City; Ika Sushi & Japanese Restaurant, Midvale; Picnic, Salt Lake City; Riggatti, Saint-Georges.

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