This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The fate of Lamb's Grill, which shut its doors last month after years of financial struggle, should be decided within the next few weeks, the building owner and former operator says.
John Speros, who, along with his father, operated the venerable Salt Lake City restaurant at 169 S. Main St. for more than seven decades before selling in 2011, said he feels an urgency to decide the restaurant's future.
"It's prime retail space and I'm not sure I have the luxury of sitting on it for a long period of time," he said.
Because the current owners "were unable to meet financial obligations" the business has reverted back to the Speros family and they have been in discussions with a handful of business owners and investors to revive it.
Pending offers include reopening the restaurant as Lamb's, reopening as another restaurant, or selling the antique bar, furniture and kitchen equipment, Speros said. "This will all be settled within a couple weeks."
Speros' preference is that the space continue as a restaurant even if it's not Lamb's.
"It would break my heart to have to tear it apart and sell it off," he said.
Lamb's Grill, one of Utah's oldest and most well-known restaurants, opened in 1919 in Logan and moved in 1939 to its location in Salt Lake City. Known for its old-school booths, white-linen tablecloths and ornate wooden counter, it was a favorite spot for Salt Lake City's power brokers to have a bowl of lentil soup or a cup of coffee.
In 2011, Speros sold the operation to Francis Liong and his wife, Joan Barlow. After the couple divorced, Barlow and her father, Wayne Barlow, bought out Liong's equity.
In October 2016, the restaurant already was struggling when it was forced to stop serving alcohol. The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) said Lamb's had failed to inform the state that the majority ownership had changed. The DABC fined the restaurant $2,500 for the violation. The restaurant was also required to build an alcohol-dispensing enclosure aka, a "Zion Curtain."
After paying the fine and meeting the barrier requirement, Lamb's was granted another liquor license from the DABC.
But operating without a state liquor license for two months had cost Lamb's at least $40,000 in profits and had put the restaurant on the verge of closing, Barlow told the state liquor commission at the time. The Barlows hung on for a few more months, but ultimately closed after dinner service April 26.
General Manager Todd Gibson told The Tribune that losing the liquor license didn't help the financial situation, but it wasn't completely to blame. The restaurant had changed its menus and decor, he said, and it had lost its allure as many newer restaurants opened on Main Street.
Speros said there is no ill will toward Liong or Barlow. Rather it's the loss of his family's legacy and the possible end of an important chapter in Utah restaurant history that has made the situation so emotional.