Remember those much-mocked signs required by the Utah Legislature? (We especially enjoyed the variant, “This is a Government. Not a Church.”) Of course, it all stemmed from the Byzantine (and I don’t use that word lightly and am aware of the cliché) laws and permits required to open a bar or restaurant in Utah.
A slight change to the ridiculous signage rule doesn’t really clear it up. Now the signs must read: “This is a bar” and “This is a restaurant.” Never the twain shall meet, except when they do at Scott Evans’ newest concept, replacing his Spanish tapas spot, Finca. Now, it’s two entities: the restaurant, George (“This is a Restaurant”) and the adjacent watering hole, Bar George (“This is a Bar”). The address is the same but the interior, which was too big anyway, has been divided into bar and restaurant sides.
Contrary to common belief, restaurants don’t make all their money on sales of alcohol. That is true in other states, where restaurants get a resell discount on what they buy, allowing a reasonable margin when they mark it up for consumer pricing. But in Utah, restaurants and bars pay retail prices (same as you and me), making it impossible for a traditional retail “keystone” markup. And making it hard to make a living as either a bar or a restaurant.
Thus, Bar George/George is another of the hybrids that we’ve seen seen open in Salt Lake City over the past year: Post Office Place, White Horse, London Belle, Lake Effect and Caffé Molise/BTG all have chef-driven menus that have made them food destinations as well as bars. Basically bars are becoming good restaurants and deftly side stepping the silly signage rule.
And sure enough, the big impetus behind the chameleon change at George is because of our beloved Utah legislature and DABC. The revised 2017 law required Evans to choose between a bar license where alcohol can be served to those over 21 without a food order, or a restaurant license where you have to order food if you’re going to order alcohol. Evans had been operating with a now-nonexistent hybrid license.
The food menu at both Georges is similar—the separation between the purposes of the two spaces is vague, except, perhaps to the DABC. The small space, Bar George, carved out of the huge Finca footprint, serves small bites but its big draw is a 40-bottle rotating list of natural wine, a passion of Evans.
At its core, Bar George is a wine bar. Although there are cocktails, as well as sherry, madeira, beer and cider. But here you can peruse a wine list like you’ve never seen. Categories are labeled biodynamic, amphora, methode ancestrale, Col-Fondo, natural and vin natur. Natural wines are Evans’ passion and he’s excited to be introducing Salt Lake to these modern versions of ancient winemaking. You’ll have to learn a whole new wine vocabulary to order a glass with confidence here, but once you do, think how hip you’ll be.
327 W. 200 South, SLC, 801-487-1699, bargeorgeslc.com
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