SALT LAKE CITY — State officials are asking the Utah Legislature for more than $10 million to relocate Salt Lake City's "shabby" downtown liquor store, citing an aging building, dipping revenues and criticisms for its proximity to homeless services.
Sal Petilos, executive director of the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, made the request to a legislative appropriations subcommittee on Thursday, noting the store at 205 W. 400 South is starting to show its age and is viewed as an embarrassment for tourists.
"To put it mildly, it is not the most welcoming atmosphere," Petilos said.
The 1982 building is "showing the wear and tear of being there for 37 years" and its close proximity to social services "have made us a lightning rod for criticism," he said.
In 2017, former Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams asked the state agency to relocate the liquor store as part of efforts to end the chaos in Salt Lake City's Rio Grande area near the downtown homeless shelter.
"While the reasons for being homeless vary from losing employment to mental illness and substance abuse, I believe we can do better by all individuals and families experiencing homelessness and by the Salt Lake County taxpayers," the mayor wrote in a letter he sent to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control more than a year ago.
Petilos read a comment from a survey giving the department public feedback expressing "serious concerns" about the downtown store.
"This is the store most of our out-of-state guests visit, and it's the shabbiest," Petilos read. "It's a very ugly store with very difficult and inadequate parking at busy times."
Additionally, Pelitos said even though his department's revenues have steadily increased overall year to year, annual revenues for the downtown store have been slowly decreasing recently. The store's revenue peaked in 2016 at $13.4 million but dropped to $13.2 million in 2017 and $12.8 million last year.
"Given those factors, we would really like to move the store to another location in the central downtown business district," Petilos said, adding that a new downtown store would put "the department and the state in a good light when people come to shop at our stores."
The agency estimates the cost of relocation would cost nearly $10.1 million, including $4.6 million for property acquisition, according to a presentation Petilos gave lawmakers.
Even though the department rakes in more than $450 million a year, it needs approval from the Utah Legislature before it can build new stores.
The Utah Legislature will be considering appropriations as it works toward finalizing the state's budget in the coming weeks.