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Stifled by a shortage of club liquor licenses, the owners of the Mixx in Salt Lake City have found a loophole in state alcohol laws.
The Mixx will open in January as a reception center, where alternative groups such as goths or punks can party and gay couples may symbolically exchange vows. The center is at 615 W. 100 South in a building that once housed the Trapp Door.
The new owners have been open about their efforts to change their business model from a club to a reception center since the state ran out of bar permits last year. On Tuesday, after two previous attempts, liquor commissioners granted the applicants a reception center license with repeated assurances that the latter would operate under requirements of the law meaning the center would not be run as a public bar.
Co-owner R.B. Edgar acknowledged that the Mixx probably isn't the elegant, solemn reception center envisioned by lawmakers, a majority of whom are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which eschews alcohol and views homosexual relationships as sinful.
"The legislators may have had their perceptions of what a reception center is," said Edgar, "but those perceptions didn't quite make it into the law."
Edgar, who has worked in clubs since 1990, anticipates that lawmakers will toughen standards for reception centers, which now must be at least 5,000 square feet and rented out to a third party for a special event, such as a business meeting, convention or wedding.
Any new bill regulating reception centers probably would not go into effect until Oct. 31 giving owners time to comply with any new requirements. Or, club permits may become available by then, allowing the Mixx to reopen as a bar, where drinks may be served without food orders and alcoholic beverages may be mixed in public view.
"It's what we've wanted all along," said co-owner Alan Moss, who also owns Area 51, a dance club at 451 S. 400 West, which plays goth and industrial music.
Eighteen applicants are waiting for club licenses, which could take months or years to materialize. Population estimates, which determine the number of licenses, have been so skewed that the state must eliminate five bar permits before any more become available through population growth or business failures that would free up existing licenses.
On the other hand, the state has distributed only six of 50 available reception center licenses. So far, all who have applied have been awarded permits.
Jeff Wright, one of five commissioners on the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control board, said it had little choice in granting a license to the Mixx.
"It's apparent that they have complied with the law," said Wright. "And I would never begrudge anyone changing their business model."
Still, the Mixx won't escape the long arm of Utah liquor laws. Drinks will be mixed and poured in the kitchen, out of public view. In addition, the center's bar must be used as a food counter or hidden behind a partition a so-called Zion curtain.
This year, lawmakers gave a reprieve to small convention and reception centers, whose licenses had been set to expire last fall.
Earlier, lawmakers had approved legislation allowing only the state's largest facilities, 30,000 square feet or more, to serve liquor for business gatherings and weddings. But owners of smaller facilities said the legislation had the unintended consequence of increasing the flow of free alcohol at their facilities. That, the owners said, turned back the clock to a time when hosts had to bring their own booze, resulting in unregulated, open bars.
Liquor commissioners have granted five other reception center licensees, to Cucina Nassi, in the historic Sugar House Post Office, 2155 S. Highland Drive; The Gathering Place at Gardner Village, 1100 W. 7800 South, West Jordan; La Caille at 9565 Wasatch Blvd., Sandy; Pierpont Place at 163 Pierpont Ave., Salt Lake City; Woods on Ninth, 6775 S. 900 East, Midvale; and in November to Las Rocas, West Haven.
The reception center will open in January for alternative lifestyle groups.
Location • 615 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City
Events • Weddings, conventions, business meetings
Groups • Up to 500 people
Telephone • 801-575-6499