Restaurant chains anticipate increase in state liquor licenses

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SALT LAKE CITY -- With Utah lawmakers likely to approve an increase in the number of liquor licenses, many national restaurant chains may consider expanding within the state.

Currently, there are 900 full-service and limited-service restaurant licenses in Utah. But with a quota increase of 90 more licenses likely to be approved on Wednesday, restaurants may consider opening more locations and bringing more jobs.

Buffalo Wild Wings is just one of the national food chains waiting on a liquor license. The company wants to add up to 10 restaurants in Utah. And they are not alone. The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control says Wing Nutz and Longhorn Steakhouse are also on the waiting list.

“I've actually had several calls from restaurants and restaurant chains that have said we have an interest in coming to Utah,” says Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem.

Valentine is currently sponsoring the bill to add 90 liquor licenses for restaurants.

But the legislation comes with a price tag: $280,000. That cost would include four Department of Public Safety law enforcement officers the state will have to hire and the extra Utah Highway Patrol DUI blitzes. The extra cost is expected to be paid by any company that applies for a liquor license or already has one.

“We're grateful to have 90 and in the end I honestly believe it's likely a stopgap, but I don't know what the future might hold,” says Robert Reynard, an attorney for Buffalo Wild Wings.

Buffalo Wild Wings says one restaurant alone employs about 100 people and, with an expected 10 more coming to the state, a potential 1000 jobs could be created.