Salt Lake City drops limits on downtown bars

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Finding a bar in downtown Salt Lake City could soon become a lot easier now that the city council has eliminated the downtown's two-bar-per-block restriction.

The move was made in an effort to boost tourism and bring more life to Utah's largest city after dark.

"It's a reflection that we're growing up as a city," Mayor Ralph Becker said about Tuesday's unanimous vote. "We have diverse needs. We have antiquated laws. It's an important step in creating a downtown we all want."

Clustering bars near public transit could reel in visitors while also reduce drunken driving, he said.

Kathy Embleton, who was sipping a drink at a Main Street pub on Tuesday, said it will help a city that is "behind the times."

"It's good for culture and it brings in business -- for theater, for ballet," she said. "Downtown is the cultural expression that is outside of one belief. This is where it happens."

However, it could take a while for bars to set up shop near each other because there are only a few liquor licenses remaining for the entire state, a number based on the state's population.

"It's great, but there's no licenses now," said Del Vance, owner of the Beerhive Pub. "Unless they change the quota system, based on the population, I don't think it's going to help."

Becker said it will take time for the measure to have large-scale effects. Tuesday's vote won't trump the Utah law that prohibits alcohol within 600 feet of a church, school or park.

"This isn't going against the grain of state law," he said.

But it does mark the biggest change since former Gov. John Huntsman ended Utah's private club law earlier this year that required membership to get into some establishments.

"Our downtown is going to be more like a downtown now," said Councilman Luke Garrott, who represents that part of the city. "I thank people for their open minds."


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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