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SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake ax throwing business obtained a state license to sell beer because it put in a pool table.
While that might not make sense, it was enough for Utah alcohol commissioners to grant Social Axe a license under a state law that specifically lists "recreational amenities" where beer can be sold. Ax throwing venues are not on the list. Pool or billiard parlors are.
Co-owners Mark Floyd and Steve Lister told the commission Tuesday they did exactly what one of the members suggested last month to comply with the law. Floyd said he put in one pool table and two billiard tables and plans to hold nine-ball and three-ball tournaments.
"I have done everything the law says," Floyd told the commission.
Commissioner Thomas Jacobson questioned whether the business is trying to get around the law and whether putting in pool tables makes an ax throwing business a pool parlor. He envisioned other businesses buying pool tables as a way to sell beer to customers.
Alcohol commissioners have wrestled with the issue since the Utah Legislature removed the phrase "substantially similar" from the law describing recreational activities at which beer sales are allowed. The commission granted Social Axe a beer permits for its Ogden and Orem locations last year based on that wording.
The law now defines a recreational amenity specifically as a billiard parlor, bowling alley, golf course, miniature golf, golf driving range, tennis club, sports arena or concert venue.
Commissioner Jacquelyn Orton said the law has become "entirely too tight" and that she doesn't believe the Legislature meant to do that.
"In my mind, Social Axe has gone above and beyond to show good faith to comply with the intent of the Legislature," she said. "At some point, I think we have to be reasonable."
Commission Chairman John T. Nielsen agreed, but said it would be a "heck of a lot easier" if the Legislature would add ax throwing to the list of activities.
"We really need clarification," Jacobson said, saying the commission is "victim" of the new law.
Sen. Jerry Stephenson, R-Layton, who sponsors much of the alcohol legislation in the state, called Utah liquor law a "moving target." He co-sponsored the bill that changed the law.
"I think you've made the right decision here today," he told the commission. "I think you're on the right track in the way you're handling things."
The commission voted 6-0 to grant Social Axe a beer license for its Salt Lake venue. Jacobson abstained.