It's Now Legal to Sell a Utah Liquor License

Jul 1, 2014

  Starting today, it’s legal for bar or restaurant owners to sell their liquor licenses in Utah.  KUER’s Dan Bammes reports the change is meant to keep transactions above board.

The Transfer of License Act was passed by the Utah legislature three years ago.  The sponsor was Republican State Senator John Valentine, who says the idea was to stop the under-the-table transactions that often accompanied the sale of a business.

“So you’d have one person operating, supposedly the owner," Valentine tells KUER, "and the other person maybe having a 1% or ½% interest.  And so it was kind of a subterfuge.”

Valentine says the law also protects creditors, who have to be paid off before a license can be transferred.  The buyer of a liquor license has to meet the same legal requirements as a new licensee.

Nina McDermott is the compliance chief for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. She says there’s been no rush to sell existing licenses.

McDermott says, “We expect that they’ll come in within the next few days for a couple of them. But other than that, we’re not really sure who is planning on selling their business or their license.”

In the past, when a restaurant or bar was sold, the liquor license had to be surrendered to the state with no guarantee it would be issued back to the new owner.