When life gives you lemons, how about a lemon drop martini?

Salt Lake City restaurant owners with dining club permits are facing new challenges brought on by the latest Utah State Legislature Liquor law overhaul. And they might need a martini or two to get through this one.

Here’s the problem. Business owners who had the special dining club liquor license from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control had until July 1 to decide whether they want to get a restaurant liquor license (which requires patrons to order food with alcoholic beverages) or a bar license (which allows only those 21 and older on the premises).

While unsuccessful, dining club license owners fought to keep the designation because the hybrid license offered their business more freedom. It allowed adults to drink alcoholic beverages, without also having to order food. But minors are allowed inside when accompanied by adults.

In other states, restaurants make money on alcohol sales because they are allowed a reasonable margin for resell. But Utah restaurants and bars pay retail prices making it difficult to make a living as either a bar or a restaurant.

What to do? Scott Evans, owner of Finca and the now obsolete dining club license, applied for both. A fresh start brought a new name and menu. The restaurant address is the same but the interior has been divided into a bar, renamed Bar George (with a “This is a Bar” sign) and a restaurant renamed George (with a “This is a Restaurant” sign).  The concept was approved conditionally, pending construction work to meet the requirement – an additional glass-partitioned bar area which cost Scott $50,000 to build.

It’s a creative workaround to an ongoing challenge for our City’s restaurateurs.

“We moved downtown to the historic Warehouse Condo Building to accommodate larger groups and private timing. Since then the liquor laws changed numerous times — we have operated under 4 different liquor licenses in the past 6 years.” says owner Scott Evans. “The best way to move forward was to construct a separate space, and Bar George is our “lemonade.”

What are your thoughts on the subject?  We would love to hear your ideas and feedback. By connecting with other business owners it is possible to find creative ways to honor State liquor laws while working to remain profitable.

In the meantime, it helps to keep a sense of humor.  And know that the community is grateful for the impact, culture, and diversity you bring to our community.