This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah with its rules, regulations and bureaucratic eccentricities can taketh away a business's earning power and, sometimes, can giveth it back.
Lamb's Grill, one of the state's oldest restaurants, was on the verge of shutting its doors for good on Salt Lake City's Main Street recently after technically violating one of Utah's myriad liquor laws forced it to lose its alcohol license.
That cost Lamb's about $40,000 over the two months it couldn't sell booze and, to make matters worse, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control imposed a $9,000 fine that the restaurant's owners feared would be its death knell.
The DABC, however, trimmed the fine to $2,500, and the reissuance of a liquor license is imminent, so the Salt Lake City mainstay is getting off life support.
The violation: Not notifying the DABC of a change in majority ownership.
So that was an example of bureaucrats almost killing a business. They actually succeeded in slaying another icon, the decades-old Cinegrill, by denying that restaurant a liquor license because it was too close to a church-owned building.
But here is the sunny side of the bureaucratic story:
The Rio Grande Cafe has been on the verge of closing for months because of the hordes of homeless people constantly surrounding the 35-year-old restaurant, hitting up customers for money and, in some cases, getting violent with diners or staff.
Owner Pete Henderson said in October he had just about had enough after his son and co-owner, Ian, was severely assaulted by several men when he tried to stop them from panhandling customers on the restaurant's patio.
Pete Henderson said at the time that because of the homeless problem in the area of Rio Grande Avenue between 200 South and 300 South and extending to 500 West, the average number of diners had dropped from 12,000 a month to about 6,000.
The cafe is one of dozens of businesses around the Pioneer Park area that have lost customers because of the homeless issue.
But the restaurant had one thing going for it: It is housed in the old Rio Grande Depot, which is owned by the state and is headquarters to the state's history department.
After the cafe's pleas for more security, the state came through, and Ian Henderson says his restaurant is a much safer and pleasant place to come and enjoy tacos and enchiladas, as well as a margarita or two.
The Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management has invested $250,000 to make a more secure fence on the west side of the restaurant's parking lot, put an automatic arm at the parking lot's entrance that requires a ticket be paid on the way out (Rio Grande diners will get a parking validation) to keep out unwanted visitors who have driven to the area in the past to sell drugs, and extended the hours of armed guards on the premises.
Ian Henderson also gave props to the Salt Lake City Police Department, which has increased its presence and conducted a sweep that resulted in dozens of arrests.
Says Ian: Come back down and give the restaurant a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.