Undercover liquor cops have busted a Salt Lake City bar for allegedly selling bootlegged beer.
The Spot, located at 870 S. Main St., was locked up Friday, and no one answered the telephone. No signs were posted on the door listing business hours or whether it was closed.
The bust in May was conducted by undercover liquor sting officers who ordered two unauthorized beers, drawn from a list provided by another bar owner. The agents purchased Alaska Winter Ale and 90 Shilling Ale, and then confiscated eight other bottles of beer not sold in state liquor stores. Officials said because the beers cannot be purchased in Utah, it appears that the products were brought from out-of-state, in violation of state liquor laws.
Lt. Troy Marx of the State Bureau of Investigation, said officers are waiting for the owner to return to Utah so he can be given the opportunity to answer questions before the case proceeds. The club has been in business for nearly a decade.
All bars and eateries are required to purchase alcoholic beverages from state liquor stores or licensed individuals such as beer wholesalers, at the same price that consumers pay.
The case is expected to go to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for prosecution. The violations are considered "grave" and subject to possible license suspension or revocation and fines from $1,000 to $25,000, said department spokeswoman Vickie Ashby.
In addition, criminal charges could be screened by the Salt Lake County District Attorney.
The bust originated from "a complaint" to the DABC from Salt Lake City bar owner Mark Alston, with The Bayou, located at 645 S. State St. Alston told liquor-control officials that The Spot was selling four brands of "unauthorized beer," according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed in Third District Court.
Alston said in an email, "We simply asked the DABC how to get the beers that The Spot was selling as we had many customers asking about them. We were told that those beers were not available through the state. This most likely alerted them to the sales. Our intent was to be able to sell those beers as they are highly desired and we had been trying to get several of them for years. We thought we may have simply missed an opportunity."
In the covert operation at The Spot, liquor agent Eric Davis and two undercover officers purchased two alcohol beverages from the list provided by Alston, according to the court affidavit.
The agents in turn, seized two bottles of 90 Shilling Ale, named for a Scottish method of taxation, and six bottles of Coors Batch 19 Pre-Prohibition Lager, inspired by a beer brewed the year before Prohibition was enacted.
The Spot was granted a club license in December 2003. The bar is located in a building constructed in 1961 as a Chinese restaurant. In 1971 it reopened as The New Age of Aquarius, supposedly among the first private clubs in Utah.
A Salt Lake Tribune review last year described The Spot as a casual low-key neighborhood bar serving well-priced drinks and food.
The Spot bar
Where • 870 S. Main St., Salt Lake City
What • Casual, low-key neighborhood bar serving drinks and food
Information • saltlakecityutah.org/thespot.htm