Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Home City Life DABC Detox
bottle of booze

DABC Detox


Editor’s note: When the Legislature meets later this month, they are expected to consider “tweaks” to Utah’s arcane liquor laws. But restaurateurs, bar owners and resort executives say that falls far short of the fixes required to keep the state competitive in bringing in tourists, conventions and developing a robust local dining culture.

In short, the myth, “You can’t get a drink in Utah,” is alive and well.


Mike Mower, long-time Republican political operative, hustles down a Capitol staircase to a meeting. “I love it,” he says of his job as Gov. Gary Herbert’s deputy chief of staff. “As a kid in Ferron, I would have never have believed that someday I would be working in this beautiful building.”

Mower is good at his job. You would never guess from his Boy Scout enthusiasm that he was handed the nightmare task of controlling the spreading public rage at Utah’s dysfunctional Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. On this sunny afternoon, Mower cheerfully explains that the Governor’s Office’s scrutiny of the DABC is just a part of a state-wide efficiency program being implemented by Kristen Cox, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

In truth, DABC’s problems are vastly more politically perilous. Besides an avalanche of complaints, Mower is faced with DABC Commission meetings at which former employees, wine lovers and even a state senator leveled charges of employee abuse and gratuitous firings, inept customer service, security problems, inventory shortages and arrogant disregard of the state’s tourism economy that depends on providing quality wine and liquor. Utah hoteliers and restaurateurs bitterly complain that after a short period of progress under former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Utah is again the laughingstock of the world for its puritanical and absurd liquor laws.

“The morale at the DABC has never been lower,” says Brent Clifford, retired wine buyer at the agency for 37 years, who has become one of DABC management’s angriest and most knowledgable critics. “Employees feel they are under siege and badgered to constantly do more. And the current leadership is clueless.” Tracey Creno, a police officer who provides security at the Sandy store, complained of intimidation, spying and retaliation against employees. “I’ve had a gutfull of DABC,” she told the commission.

Sen. Karen Mayne, a West Valley City Democrat, tore into the DABC over “email after email” she had gotten from employees complaining of arrogant managers who bully them. Two wine experts quit the Metro Wine Store downtown in protest of their work environment and the decline in quality of selection. “[Selling alcohol and wine] is a skilled craft and should be treated that way,” Mayne told the commissioners at a public meeting. “We [the state] are generating millions of dollars from your business.”
The roiling controversy at the DABC has spread far enough to splatter Herbert.


“That’s how I got involved,” Mower explains his role. “If there isn’t enough time for people to meet with the governor, I meet with them. I look to see if some changes need to be made. I said, ‘Let’s get Kris’s team on the ground. Let’s see if there are changes that should be made—operational stuff.’ ”

But Clifford, who resigned in 2012 from the DABC, protesting the agency’s short-sighted shift to profits over quality, and other critics inside and outside of the agency aren’t optimistic Herbert will do much. “Mower’s one of the best political handlers out there,” says Clifford. “Gary Herbert wants the bad press to go away. He wants it to happen before he runs [for reelection]. I don’t believe he’s serious about fixing the issues down there.”


Others, including retired DABC Human Resources Specialist Kerri Adams, who has brought the employee complaints to the commission and Mower, also fears the governor’s office is doing little more than letting employees vent, hoping it will mollify them. After all, only the Legislature can make meaningful fixes and Adams and Clifford agree there is little appetite on the Hill for significant law changes to make liquor sales easier.

Click here to continue with DABC: A Peculiar Institution

Or read it in its entirety on our digital edition here.

You know it's spring in Utah when cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the @utstatecapitol ⁠🌸😍⁠

Photo by @gravesstuart

Inspired by @oldsaltlake, we're celebrating #throwbackthursday with a favorite snapshot of early 20th century Salt Lake City. 🏖️⁠

Photos shared by @oldsaltlake are inspiring millennials and zoomers decades later with visions of a different city: one with easily accessible public transportation, walkable streets, local businesses (open late) and distinctive architecture.⁠

See more photos at the link in our bio. ⁠

Pictured: Women relax at what is believed to be Saltair Beach, date unknown

Why did Utah's only Titanic passenger not survive her journey?⁠

The descendants of Irene Corbett believe that the 30-year-old teacher sacrificed her life to save others. It's one of the many ways this remarkable figure bucked tradition and forged her own trail.⁠

Read more about Irene at the link in our bio!

One year ago today: a Salt Lake earthquake that even shook Moroni 👼⁠

Photo by @gravesstuart

"We must have done something right, cause you guys kept coming back."⁠

@bluepelatedinerslc, one of Salt Lake's signature spots for everyone from hungover college kids to vegan food lovers, will be closing its doors this May after more than two decades of service. It's the latest casualty in a brutal year for the restaurant industry. ⁠

Head to the link in our bio for a tribute to Blue Plate Diner. (And keep supporting your favorite local restaurants. ❤️)

Tony Caputo, a food evangelist and founding father of today’s SLC food community, passed away last night.⁠

Tony started @caputosmarket in 1997, bringing his passion for the cuisine of his heritage to Utah tables. Most days during the lunch rush you’d find Tony behind the counter slicing meat and cheeses and then, after it wound down, holding court out front. He’d often rush back behind the counter and holler over his shoulder, “you have to try this!" only to return with a sample bite of veiny cheese, a paper-thin leaf of prosciutto or a perfectly crisp amaretti cookie that he’d recently added to his menagerie of taste. For his many contributions to Salt Lake City, we awarded Tony with a Lifetime Achievement Dining Award in 2007.⁠

Today, we're sending love to @caputosmarket and the many people whose lives were touched by Tony. A full tribute is on our website now. ❤️

Why is the Pleasant Grove theme park Evermore suing one of the most powerful women in music? Long story short: a playground for those who would choose lore over folklore is taking on Taylor Swift over the name of her most recent album. Both parties have their reputation on the line in a battle of undercover Swifties and novelty mug disputes. Will Evermore hit the gold rush? Or did they cross the wrong mad woman? The full story is at the link in our bio. ...

Even in the exploration boom of the 1800s, nobody dared to explore the terrain flowing through the Green and the Colorado Rivers.⁠

That is, nobody until Major John W. Powell said the 19th Century equivalent of “Hey man, hold my beer while I try this.”⁠

Read more about his dangerous expedition at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo of Powell’s expedition courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division⁠

A brand new issue of Salt Lake magazine is coming your way! ⁠

We can't wait to share these stories with you. This issue includes our annual Blue Plate Awards celebrating those surviving and thriving in the restaurant biz. Plus, we take a road trip to Wyoming and ask why the only Utah passenger on the Titanic didn’t survive her journey.⁠

A note from our editor Jeremy Pugh, including beautiful tributes to Mary Brown Malouf from our friends in the community, is online now. Read more at the link in our bio ❤️⁠

Subscribers: Look for this issue in your mailbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands March 1! 📬

Today, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2021 Blue Plate Awards! ⁠🎉⁠

These prizes honor the growers, food evangelists, grocers, servers, bakers, chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs who do more than put good food on the table—they make our community a better place to live. This year, just surviving as a local business deserves an award, but each of our Blue Plate winners did more than that. They made us grateful for every person involved in the essential act of feeding us.⁠ 🍽⁠

At the link in our bio, we have the full list of winners, a celebration of feats of COVID creativity and a tribute to restaurants we lost this year. If you’re hungry for more, pick up a copy on newsstands March 1! Plus, check out our Instagram for spotlights on some of the Blue Plate winners. ⁠

This year’s Blue Plate Awards are the first without our beloved Executive Editor Mary Brown Malouf. We dedicate them to her, our town’s biggest food fan, critic and champion. xoxomm⁠ 💙

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @ricobrandut for Staying in Beansness⁠

Last summer, it seemed that Rico would be another victim of rapid gentrification in Salt Lake. Luckily, Rico was able to find a new home in Poplar Grove and now plans to add even more employees. It’s a last-minute happy ending for a community leader who literally wears his mission on his sleeve, courtesy a tattoo in bright red block letters: “pay it forward.” 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award Winner: @spicekitchenincubator for Keeping the Spice Flowing⁠

This year Spice Kitchen Incubator, already an essential resource for refugees, became, well, even more essential. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @thestore_utah for Special Deliveries ⁠

As grocery delivery becomes the new norm, The Store offers a personal touch that only an independent grocer can provide. Last March, high-risk and elderly customers began calling in their grocery lists over the phone, and The Store’s general managers personally delivered food to their homes. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @cucinaslc for Preserving Neighborhood Connection⁠

Cucina’s outdoor spaces became a place where the neighborhood could gather safely. Owner Dean Pierose offered free coffee in the mornings and encouraged his regulars to linger and commiserate together, preserving a semblance of society during a socially distanced time. 💙⁠