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New census figures mean 13 more Utah liquor licenses

Some lines here please. Some lines thank you

Utah will have 13 more liquor licenses to distribute prior to the Olympics next year.

The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control discovered this week it will have licenses for eight more liquor-selling restaurants and five additional private clubs for the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission's March meeting.

The new licenses come courtesy of census-figure crunching at the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, which estimates population figures yearly and supplies numbers around March 1.

The commission has developed rigid standards for awarding the highly coveted permits, which are invaluable to restaurateurs who often battle competitors for the legal ability to sell liquor, wine and high-alcohol content beer.

"It's sometimes difficult do decide who gets (a license)," said Earl Dorius, compliance and licensing manager for the DABC. "You have to find distinctions between equally qualified applicants."

Small cafes are sometimes snubbed over large clubs or restaurants. Places that cater more to children might also be overlooked.

"As a rule we have more applicants than we have licenses," DABC compliance officer Tom Zdunich said. "For example at our last commission meeting we had 13 applicants and seven licenses."

In fact, there is even some backlog because restaurants and private clubs that have been denied permits roll their applications over to the next commission meeting, Zdunich said.

But the new, census-determined permits will help break up that logjam and may serve to establish more places to drink during the Winter Games since the commission, which holds hearings every month to distribute a handful of certificates, may consider the Olympics when awarding those new licenses.

Already, the commission weighs tourist traffic before allocating new licenses. A business in a skiing community, Dorius notes, would probably have an easier time gaining a permit than a place in the suburbs.

Sales are also supremely important, Dorius said, since Utah collects huge tax dollars on each bottle of hard alcohol, wine, and high-alcohol content beer sold. Private clubs in Olympic venue cities could expect higher sales and more favorable commission treatment when compared with joints in nonvenue cities.

Awarding extra licenses in venue cities might also help quell the hordes of media requests the DABC has fielded concerning the unavailability of alcohol in Utah for the Games.

Now, finding a drink in Utah will be a little easier. Given the new census data, Utah will have 324 private club permits and 504 liquor-selling restaurants licenses come 2002, Dorius said.

The amount is set by the Utah Legislature, which has determined there can be one private club per 7,000 people and one liquor-selling restaurant per 4,500 people.

Of the currently licensed private clubs and liquor-selling restaurants, 602 of 812 (74 percent) are in venue counties, with 387 in Salt Lake, 89 in Summit, 70 in Weber, 46 in Utah and 10 in Wasatch, according to DABC statistics.

A private club's primary function is serving alcoholic beverages, and clubs are allowed to serve liquor, wine and high-alcohol content beer. Utah also has taverns or pubs that serve 3.2 percent beer only. Those taverns aren't regulated on a quota system.

Liquor-selling restaurants primarily serve food but also sell hard liquor, wine and high-alcohol content beer.