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SALT LAKE CITY -- For years, the idea of neighborhood bars has been prohibited in Salt Lake City; now the city is looking to make a change. City leaders are interested in promoting a walker-friendly environment and mixed-use development in commercial centers like 9th and 9th and 15th and 15th.
This year, in the most sweeping change in 40 years, the state changed liquor laws and did away with the private club system. Now, Salt Lake City is also looking to retool.
"For the businesses, it's going to be an easier process, and not as complicated a process for them to be able to get their license through," said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
The city is considering altering municipal zoning rules to allow for bars in neighborhood commercial districts, like the areas of 9th and 9th (900 East and 900 South) and 15th and 15th (1500 East and 1500 South). The owner of a restaurant in both locations says the change would be a plus for business.
"I always think that the more variety of food and beverage places there are, the better the place becomes as a destination for dining and for night life," said Ali Sabbah, owner of Mazza Restaurant.
Any changes would likely include strict rules that a new neighborhood-commercial bar have a security plan, prompt garbage pickup, a designated smoking area and a ban on outdoor music.
Currently in Salt Lake, bars are only allowed downtown and in the Sugar House commercial zone. Some worry the push for bars elsewhere is happening too fast, without enough public input; but others see little downside.
"I think it's a good thing, because I think there's people that want to have other choices as far as what they do in their spare time," said Salt Lake City resident Sarah Bazail.
San Francisco resident Melissa Zolmierski said, "It would appeal to the younger crowd and also help boost tourism. And as a social aspect, it's definitely a crowd pleaser."
The president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving says the organization is worried about alcohol exposure to kids. He says research shows an increase in the number of bars increases the likelihood of underage drinking.
The plan would need approval of both the planning commission and city council.