SALT LAKE CITY — With or without a liquor license, a Salt Lake businessman plans to open a Foothill-area restaurant in the same place where residents opposed and the city rejected his proposal for a neighborhood bar.
Bryce Jones approached the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission on Tuesday for a full-service restaurant license, which would allow him to serve beer, wine and liquor. Commissioners denied the request but are amenable to granting a limited service license — beer and wine only — should he want to apply for that permit.
Either way, BrewHaHa Bar and Grill, renamed from BrewHaHa Tavern, will open for business mid-September, Jones told the commission.
Tuesday's liquor commission meeting continued a monthslong feud between Jones and homeowners who live near his proposed establishment at 2108 E. 1300 South.
Jones said residents have a "personal vendetta" against him.
"They didn’t want a bar here, and they have organized and they have now made me the personification of their objection," he said.
Residents say there's not enough parking to accommodate a tavern or restaurant, and they worry cars will spill into their neighborhood. They also say noise from the business would be disruptive and traffic would make the streets unsafe for children.
The Salt Lake City Planning Commission earlier this month agreed with those concerns and denied Jones' application for a conditional-use permit to run a tavern and drive-through coffee shop.
At the meeting, Jones said the rejection would force him to open a full-service restaurant, which would have a bigger impact on the neighborhood. City zoning allows a restaurant in the area without a conditional-use permit.
"If anyone hopes to drive us out of the neighborhood and prevent us from serving alcoholic beverages, which is what most the brouhaha is really about, we have a backup plan and we will not be denied," he said two weeks ago.
Jones told the alcohol commission Tuesday that he is building an outdoor, covered grill as part of the conversion to a restaurant.
"We're not just throwing a barbecue out here," he said, adding it would run year-round. "This is essentially a full-service cooking line."
Alcohol commissioners, though, wonder whether Jones would be able meet the state requirement that restaurants sell 70 percent food to 30 percent alcohol. They also noted the Utah Legislature has recently passed laws aimed at keeping restaurants from becoming bars.
"I have a concern here that this could turn into a de facto club," Commissioner John T. Nielsen said. "I'm hard-pressed to think you can meet the 70 percent rule."
Jones said he projected the tavern would have sold 43 percent food and that he sees no problem upping that to 70 percent as a restaurant. He also told the commission he is open to applying for a license to offer beer and wine only.
Ross Fulton, a member of the Bonneville Hills Community Council, said the neighborhood does not have a vendetta against Jones, but it has a hard time getting straight answers from him.
"I keep hearing things from Mr. Jones that flip from left to right continually," he said.
Fulton said the neighborhood opposes a bar or restaurant because of concerns about parking, traffic safety and noise. There are already plenty of eating and drinking establishments in the area, he said.
"There is not a need there," Fulton said. "There are tenuous elements that make it unconscionable to open another restaurant."
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