The Utah Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control has sent letters to more than 300 taverns threatening to shut them down unless they get state licenses by Jan. 1.

Most of the taverns have had several months to obtain newly required state licenses to sell beer for on-premise consumption, but for various reasons haven't paid the $300 fee, said compliance director Earl Dorius.Final warnings were sent out Friday, and the commission won't meet again until Jan. 25.

Dorius said tardy applications will result in tavern owners forfeiting their right to claim exemption to a new law requiring an establishment that serves or sells liquor to be more than 600 feet from churches, schools and parks.

More importantly, they'll have to shut down until they do get a license.

New liquor laws passed by the 1990 Legislature require all taverns to be licensed by the state.

The new year also marks the official end of brown-bagging in Utah.

As of Friday, Dorius said 163 taverns and cafes have obtained licenses to sell beer or convert to a state restaurant license.

Commissioners aren't sure why so many applications are missing.

"We don't know if they're ignorant of the law or thumbing their nose at it," said board Chairman Jerry Fenn.

Some seasonal outlets like ballparks that don't need the 600-foot exemption won't lose anything by waiting to apply.

But others, particularly taverns who plan to reopen for business after Jan. 1, will be cited for a class A misdemeanor, which carries a $2,500 fine and a possible one-year jail term.

The letter tells taverns that the state has ordered beer wholesalers to cease delivering beer after Dec. 31.