The more things change, the more they stay the same. Case in point: Santaquin.
In the early 20th century, this sleepy Utah County community was one of thousands that - because of federal regulations of the Prohibition movement - had no bars.Now, just nine short years from the 21st century, much the same is true. But this time, state regulations have made Santaquin bar-barren, says the owner of two of the town's now-defunct taverns.
Vern Callaway, owner of Walt's Place, 45 E. Main, and the Rainbow Bar, 47 W. Main, said added expenses from state liquor licensing procedures and bonding requirements, as well as state and local zoning requirements dictating the location of taverns, forced the city's bar owners to bail out.
The Rainbow closed in 1990, and Walt's Place in early 1991, when the men who were leasing them from Callaway "let me know they couldn't hack it anymore," he said.
Since then, Callaway has tried to lease both taverns to other interested parties, "but they let me know they couldn't do it because of the large outlay of cash required by bonding and licensing."
Such expenses would total nearly $1,500 the first year (including $1,000 in a one-time, returnable bond). Added to other costs involved (such as getting utility hookups, restocking the bar, hiring employees and possible cleanups and renovation), they would make re-opening too costly for a prospective leaser.
In addition, some state and local regulations govern the allowable distance between bars and public buildings, such as libraries, schools, parks, churches and city offices. Those regulations require non-conforming businesses to also bond.
However, Walt's Place - built shortly after Prohibition by Callaway's father, Walt - actually preceded the city park and library. Because of an "old-time" clause in Santaquin's zoning, the tavern is exempt from that bonding, he said.
The regulations are hypocritical, especially when state leaders say they are cracking down on drunken drivers, Callaway said. "What these regulations are doing is closing down small taverns, and that's not going to help the problem."
He said former Santaquin bar patrons must now either travel 25 miles round trip to Goshen or 15 miles round trip to Payson to get to the nearest bars.
"That's just stupid. On one hand, the state says it wants these people off the roads, and then it makes it impossible for them to do that. Isn't it better if those patrons are within walking distance of their homes?"
Also, state liquor laws prohibit bars and taverns from selling beer to go, while it allows grocery stores to sell beer. Callaway claimed that is unconstitutional.
"In Santaquin, there's a store almost next door to Walt's. All you need to do is travel 50 feet from the bar to get a six-pack. Where is the sense in that?"
The closing of Walt's also ends, at least for now, the 75-year Callaway family downtown business reign. Originally, the family owned Callaway Bros., a service station on 200 East. Callaway's father moved the business to Main Street, where it eventually metamorphosed into Walt's Place.
"I'd lease both Walt's and the Rainbow if I could," Callaway said. "All anyone would need to do is to stock either place. I'd even give them a break on rent to clean up the Rainbow a little."