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Legislators may take up liquor license shortage in special session

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Negotiations now said to be underway.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - The shortage of liquor licenses in Utah is now so serious, new laws may soon have to be passed to create more.

ABC 4 News has learned a special session of the legislature could be called to make more licenses available for restaurants.

Several sources tell us that talks are now being held at the highest level of state government.

These talks which may well lead to a special legislative session and more liquor licenses for more restaurants.

For example...

Longhorn Steakhouse is trying to corral some Utah liquor licenses.

According to testimony Wednesday at Utah's capitol, this restaurant chain wants to open a dozen outlets in Utah.

But it can't or won't until more liquor licenses are served up.

Steven Bogden from Caldwell Banker testified before the legislature’s Business and Labor Committee Wednesday.

He represented the steakhouse chain before the committee.

He told committee members,

"This is an economic development question. It really is. This is about jobs, this is about payroll, this is about taxes.

According to numbers obtained by ABC 4, at next week's DABC meeting 14 restaurants will be seeking a liquor license but only one is available.

In other words, it's not just Longhorn Steakhouse which is being left high and dry.

Catherine Lake, a local attorney also told the committee,

"We represent many different businesses, restaurants who are very much interested in coming to the state and are not coming here primarily because of the inability to obtain liquor licenses."

Last week, ABC 4 broke the story that Utah's Restaurant Association had personally told the governor about the shortage of liquor licenses.

Now, we're being told there may soon be a special session of the legislature called - in part, to address the need for more licenses.

Sen. John Valentine has written many of Utah’s alcohol laws.

He told ABC 4,

"There seems to be some attitude on Capitol Hill that we need a special session on the issue of quotas for liquor licenses for restaurants. Only the governor can make that call."

And the word around the capitol is that legislators might be okay with creating more liquor licenses for restaurants only.

But right now there doesn't seem to be an appetite or thirst for creating more licenses for clubs or bars.

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