Utah Gothic or Mormon Weirdness

Last call for arcane drinking laws in Utah

By BROCK VERGAKIS – Mar 19, 2009

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Guy walks into a bar in Utah — and easily gets a drink.

Come this summer, that simple scenario will become a reality: No special fees, club memberships or partitions required.

After more than 40 years, some of the strictest — and strangest — liquor laws in the nation are being hustled out the barroom door, yet another sign that even a state dominated by teetotaling Mormons is willing to reconsider decades-old mores if it helps the economy.

No longer will bartenders be separated from customers by a glass partition known as a "Zion Curtain." And patrons won't have to join a social club or pay a membership fee before entering bars.

"Having to pay $5 or $10 to join a club to drink any kind of alcoholic beverage is absurd," said Mark Caraway, a San Diego businessman who travels to Salt Lake City at least once a month.

Tourists frequently leave bars and restaurants here after becoming flummoxed at what it takes to get a drink. And the state's tourism industry has frequently complained that the liquor laws send lucrative conventions and skiers fleeing to neighboring Colorado.

"We were told that some places would require us to buy a license to buy alcohol. We were kind of dumbfounded by it all," said Gary Catlett, who was drinking a beer at the Park City Mountain Resort after skiing while on vacation from Houston.

While not technically requiring a license, Utah does require anyone entering a bar to be a member of the club or a member's guest. At most bars, anyone can become a member by paying a state-ordered fee for a three-week pass that costs at least $4. An annual membership costs at least $12. And a separate membership is required at each bar.

Those who live here are often just as infuriated by Utah's liquor laws, and they have developed crafty ways to bend the rules.

Buying a temporary membership allows someone to bring up to seven guests into a bar without the visitors filling out forms or paying fees. An annual membership allows an unlimited number of guests.

Many people pool together memberships with their friends so they never buy more than one membership — if any — each year. In a state where relatively few people drink, bartenders quickly begin to recognize regular customers and usually assume they or one of their friends are members.

For years, conservative lawmakers who didn't drink said the memberships prevented bar hopping. It was far from true. There are at least two annual, highly publicized events in Salt Lake City where close to 100 people in costumes go pub crawling.

If anything, some locals say eliminating the membership requirement will spare them from sitting out in the cold waiting for friends to sponsor them, and it should free up more money.

"It'll be nice to not have them anymore. It's less money, so I'll probably be able to buy other things," said Donaca Bilyard, a Salt Lake City flight attendant who was having a drink downtown at Murphy's Bar and Grill on St. Patrick's Day.

Bilyard, originally from Richland, Wash., said the changes should make Utah look a little more normal.

Besides improving the state's $6 billion tourism industry, the effort to overhaul Utah's liquor laws is also meant to send a subtle message to the rest of the world that Utah welcomes non-Mormons.

In Utah, about 60 percent of the state's population and more than 80 percent of state lawmakers belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which tells its members to abstain from alcohol.

In the cultural divide between Mormons and non-Mormons, the church's influence on alcohol policy is among the most visible sources of contention.

In 1968, at the urging of church officials, voters killed a proposal to allow the sale of liquor in restaurants by a 2-to-1 margin.

The next year, the state's private club system as it's known today was created, primarily as a way to shield the state's Mormons from being exposed to alcohol while giving drinkers a shot at the state's heavily taxed booze, if they were willing to jump through some hoops.

The foundation for this year's changes was laid in 2004, when Republican Jon Huntsman, a former deputy assistant secretary of commerce, was elected governor.

Huntsman, a Mormon, got an earful from tourism officials about the liquor laws. But reforming the rules was politically impractical until November, when Huntsman won a second term in a landslide.

Still, Huntsman faced an uphill battle. Some lawmakers waited until the final days of the legislative session, expecting to hear opposition from the Mormon church.

When it didn't come, lawmakers could vote for the changes without much fear of backlash from Mormon constituents.

The church worked with lawmakers behind the scenes to broker a compromise that included scanning the IDs of anyone who looks younger than 35 and adopting tougher DUI penalties.

"The mechanism is not the important consideration, but rather the results," church spokesman Michael Purdy said.

Many people who live here never thought they would see the end of the private club system.

"This is a big deal for Utah," said Art Cazares, general manager of Bambara restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City. "The issue is that the out-of-state guests do feel like they're being targeted. Not only are the liquor laws weird; in some ways it sends a message that you're a bad person if you're drinking."



Stoned Immaculate: The Wonder of Gilgal Gardens

There is no shortage of weirdness in Utah. For every eccentricity or closeted skeleton, there’s another waiting to be discovered—and each new tidbit is as fascinating as the last. Now each week, New West will give you a dose of beehive surreality with Clint Wardlow’s column, “Utah Gothic.”

By Contributing Writer, 12-06-05

Story and photos by Clint Wardlow, UtahGothic.com

For many years it was of Salt Lake City’s best-known secret. Tucked between the Wonder Bread factory and Chuck-A-Rama near 700 South, most Salt Lake City residents had no idea such a bizarre animal existed. Gilgal Gardens, a plot of strange sculptures with a weird Mormon ambience, is the creation of Thomas Battersby Child Jr., a former LDS bishop.

Child spent nearly twenty years working on the garden, located on about a half-acre behind his home. He filled it with twelve original sculptures and over seventy engraved stones. The most arresting of his creations is a sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Faith.

However, the garden is filled with strange carved images, such as grasshoppers and disembodied heads (there is even a life-size statue of Childs). A visitor must walk a stone path to view these works of art. Each stone is engraved with biblical and literary quotes.

For years the park was open to the public only on Sundays. If someone wanted to view the wonders of Gilgal on a day other than the Sabbath, he would need to call a phone number listed on a sign that adorned the non-descript gate that closed off the gardens

That didn’t stop all curious folk. Many, who only knew the place as Stoner Park, would hop the fence at night to get high amidst the bizarre surroundings. Most had no clue about Gilgal or how it had come into being. It was just one of those weird quasi-Mormon places that pepper Utah.

Filmmaker Trent Harris (Rubin & Ed, The Beaver Trilogy) used the garden to memorable effect in his cult movie Plan Ten From Outer Space. Gilgal epitomized everything weird and wonderful about Utah and its dominant religion.

The history of Gilgal begins in 1945 after Child retired from his role as a bishop of the Mormon Church. He remained active in the Church, serving as the director of the bishop’s warehouse and co-chair of Pioneer Day activities but, to fill his otherwise spare time and re-avow his faith, he would create a monument to the Church—one unlike any other in Mormondom.

Child enlisted the help of Utah sculptor Maurice Brooks. The two men often drove into the canyons to acquire the materials required to accomplish this mammoth work. Child would haul the stones (some boulders weighed as much of 72 tons) in the bed of his truck. He named this wonderland after the fabled gardens near the River Jordan where the Israelites had crossed on their way to the Promised Land: Gilgal Gardens.

Gilgal was a work in progress. Child added to the garden right up to his death in 1963. After that, Gilgal fell into limbo. Rumor has it he tried to give it to the Church, but they didn’t want it. Mormonism was trying to embrace a clean-cut image—they didn’t need any works that emphasized their strange history.

So there Gilgal sat for thirty years, pretty much ignored, in the shadow of the Wonder Bread factory.

But people—folks that love the strange side of Utah the Church takes such pains to hide, found out. They were Gilgal’s champions and spread the word about this mondo weirdo garden to anyone that would listen. Through word-of-mouth (usually stories of inebriated nocturnal visits to the eerie garden), Gilgal’s mystique grew.

When, in early 2000, rumors surfaced that Gilgal was to be razed for a condominium development, these champions leapt into action. The Friends of Gilgal came to the rescue of their beloved garden, working tirelessly to promote awareness of the unique sculpture garden and solicit donations to save it. And they succeeded.

The Friends raised $600,000 (including $100, 000 ponied up by the LDS church) to purchase Gilgal and save it from developer’s bulldozers. Gilgal’s saviors donated the park to the city. It has since been turned into a public park (tended by volunteer master gardeners educated by the city) where visitors can browse its strange wonders at will. Ironically, the one day it is not open is Sunday.

Gilgal Gardens, 452 S. 800 East


LDS Church indicates it is open to liquor law change

Alcohol » Idea to check IDs electronically to keep underage people out of bars wins favor.

By Robert Gehrke

The Salt Lake Tribune


The effort to do away with Utah's private club law received a major boost Wednesday, as LDS Church officials told Republican leaders they would be amenable to an alternative put forward by Utah's hospitality industry.

The pitch from Utah's bar owners would entail electronically scanning patrons' driver licenses to prevent underage individuals from entering bars or clubs and eliminating Utah's unusual private club law.

During a lunch meeting at the church headquarters, church leaders told legislative leaders they like the idea of electronic verification, said House Speaker Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara. Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, confirmed that leaders favored the idea, but it was not specifically discussed in lieu of private clubs.

Senate President Michael Waddoups said the church's primary concerns were similar to his: limiting underage drinking, alleviating over-consumption and stopping drunken driving. Waddoups said he asked about the potential for the electronic identification checks.

"They were receptive to that idea and wanted to encourage us to keep looking in that direction," said Waddoups. "I don't know if that goes all the way to solve the issue" but the senator said he plans to keep exploring the possibility."

Clark said his interpretation was that private clubs would not be an issue for the church if it felt that scanning the licenses addressed its concerns about underage drinking.

David Morris, owner of Piper Down Pub in Salt Lake City and a member of the Utah Hospitality Association, said the church's openness to the digital verification is important for a proposal that "makes sense for this state."

Scott Trotter, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that, as is the tradition, lawmakers met with church representatives and the issue of alcohol regulation was briefly discussed.

"However, private clubs were not. The church took no position on any legislation, but expressed its long-standing concerns about limiting overconsumption, reducing impaired driving and elimination of underage drinking," Trotter said in a statement.

The meeting was attended by Bill Evans, the church's lobbyist; several members of the public affairs department; and Elder Quentin L. Cook, a member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; members of the First Quorum of the Seventy; and Bishop H. David Burton, the presiding bishop for the church.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has said for years that Utah's private club law -- which requires every patron in a bar to pay a fee and register annually as a member of the club, or to be a guest of a member -- should be repealed because it is harmful to tourism. But he has turned the heat up on the issue in recent months.

At his monthly KUED news conference last week, Huntsman said his goal was to "bring ourselves into the 21st century," and he did not know what the church's position was on any of the proposed changes to alcohol policy.

He did, however, suggest that increasing the liability caps for bars and clubs if intoxicated patrons leave the establishment and caused an accident might be part of a workable compromise.

Clark said the church officials also supported the increased liability cap.

Morris said the state's liability caps are high enough -- $1 million per incident -- and raising them higher would make it impossible for establishments to get the necessary insurance.

"A million bucks is plenty. It's already stretching us as it is," he said.


Brew Pubs Gain an Unlikely Following in Utah


New York Times

January 25, 2009

IN the 1980s, a good beer was hard to come by in Utah. Although the state wasn’t dry, its alcohol laws were strict, a reflection of a traditional Mormon culture that frowns on drinking. But masses of skiers were invading, bringing their thirst into Utah along with their boots and poles. Greg Schirf, a ski bum who had been making his own beer at home, saw opportunity. Skip to next paragraph

He went commercial, opening Wasatch Brewery, the state’s first modern craft brewery, in ski-centric Park City in 1986. That much was easy enough, but adding a cozy après spot where patrons could relax and imbibe proved harder. Brew pubs were illegal. Most of the state legislature shied away from challenging the status quo, but eventually Mr. Schirf found a sympathetic legislator from a small mining town in central Utah who was willing to sponsor a bill. It passed, and Wasatch opened its brew pub in 1989. A new beer scene was born.

Wasatch is the granddaddy, but these days other brewers’ craft beers are thriving, too. And around Salt Lake City a string of inventive small breweries make for an inviting, if unexpected, tasting tour.

Utah still has quirky alcohol laws, including one that sets a limit of 3.2 percent alcohol — a little more than half the amount standard in most beers around the world — for beer sold on tap. But they don’t seem to be holding anyone back. Utah breweries do make higher-alcohol beers, though they are treated as liquor and are sold under more limited circumstances. And the state’s brewers have consistently won medals at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival.

“Utah craft brewers can coax a lot of flavor out of a relatively low amount of material," said Garrett Oliver, brew master at Brooklyn Brewery in New York, co-author of “The Good Beer Book” and a longtime judge at the Great American Beer Festival.

On a chilly Wednesday night in January, tragically hip 20-somethings and skiers with severe goggle tans stamped the remnants of two blizzards off their boots at Wasatch’s entrance, thinking food as well as drink.

Wasatch’s affordably priced pub fare is popular in Park City, a town bloated with posh restaurants. Patrons waiting for tables gazed at huge stainless steel fermenting tanks, and deeper inside the pub, others studied a hall of fame chronicling Wasatch’s clashes with politicians over names, labels and ad campaigns. The staff was delivering plates of fish and chips or buffalo burgers.

The server at the table where a friend and I were sitting brought a flight of Wasatch creations, including Polygamy Porter, which has sultry, malted, espresso notes, and a smooth and slightly spicy Evolution Amber Ale.

The server also recommended a crisp Belgian White Ale and the darker Winterfest, which left a lingering taste of caramel and malt — both served in bottles because of Utah’s 3.2 percent limit for brews served on tap. For a finale there was the Devastator, a double bock with an 8-percent-alcohol punch.

Most brew pubs in Utah are in tourist areas. Slick-rock bikers and backcountry hikers in southern Utah congregate at the Zion Canyon Brewing Company, near Zion National Park, or Moab Brewery and Eddie McStiff’s in Moab. Skiers at Snow Basin drop in at the Roosters Brewing Company in Ogden, to savor a rich chocolate stout.

But the Uinta Brewing Company, the state’s largest brewer — though its 63,000 barrels a year are minuscule compared with, say, the output of Budweiser or Heineken — is tucked into Salt Lake City’s industrial district. Its shiny silo of malted barley shares the sky with satellite dishes of a TV station next door.

At lunch (closing is at 7 p.m.), a toasty, malt-scented air wafted over the tables and huge circular bar of Uinta’s brew pub. Office dwellers, truck drivers and TV employees mingled with visitors waiting for brewery tours as they tasted the pub food and the organic Wyld Extra Pale Ale and Anniversary Barley Wine.

The action is livelier downtown, where restaurants and bars buzz. On a chilly Saturday night, biting high-desert air didn’t deter pedestrians strolling toward the Red Rock Brewing Company. It occupies what used to be a dairy building. Enjoying the beer in its expansive pub were “High School Musical” cast look-alikes and travelers with suitcases stopping off on their way to the airport. One of the most fascinating brews in a sampler flight was the Bamberg Rauchbier, a seasonal beer made with beechwood-smoked malt and pleasantly redolent of barbecue and bacon.

Around the corner at Squatters Pub Brewery, frequented by young hipsters, aging hippies and local celebrities, a fixed flight of classic brews arrived on a tray fashioned from a sawed-off ski. The Provo Girl Pilsner paired well with crispy ahi spring rolls from the kitchen — to no one’s surprise. The craft brewers play a role in Utah’s nascent artisan food culture, participating in multicourse beer pairing dinners and beer-and-cheese pairing workshops.

The next day, the taps at Squatters flowed again at 10:30 a.m., when beer service could legally begin. Brunch was being served, and the crowd included a group of stylishly tattooed friends tucking into eggs Benedict and breakfast burritos, washed down with pints of a light, forgiving beer. The chatter was light, the mood happy, and the meaning clear: in Utah, beer lovers need not go hungry — or thirsty — for long.


Most Utah brew pubs are open daily and serve lunch, dinner and sometimes weekend brunch. They offer typical pub fare like burgers, nachos and pizza; some also serve gastro pub fare like vegetarian and Asian-influenced dishes. Brewery tours may be available by appointment.

Wasatch Brew Pub (250 South Main Street, Park City; 435-649-0900; www.wasatchbeers.com), Utah’s original brew pub, is in a modern building on Park City’s Historic Main Street strip. Twenty-ounce mugs are $4.50; seven-ounce sampler glasses, $2. Signature brews include First Amendment Lager, Evolution Amber Ale and Polygamy Porter.

Uinta Brewing Company (1722 Fremont Drive, Salt Lake City; 801-467-0909; www.uintabrewing.com) offers a lunch menu of sandwiches, soup and chili. Pints of Bristlecone Brown Ale and Cutthroat Pale Ale are $4; three-ounce sampler glasses, $1. Red Rock Brewing (www.redrockbrewing.com) has two locations: 254 South 200 West, Salt Lake City, where all beers are made (801-521-7446); and Red Rock Junction at Kimball Junction (1640 West Redstone Center No. 105, Park City; 435-575-0295). Seasonal and year-round brews like Oatmeal Stout and Amber Ale are $4.50 a pint; a 4.5-ounce sample pour is $1.25.

Squatters Pub Brewery (www.squatters.com) has its main location and brewery at 147 West Broadway in Salt Lake City (801-363-2739) and satellites in Park City (Squatters Roadhouse Grill and Pub, 1900 Park Avenue; 435-649-9868) and the Salt Lake City International Airport (801-575-2002). At the downtown pub, pints of the award-winning brews like the Full Suspension Pale Ale and Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout cost $3.79. A flight of six brews is $4.49.

Other Salt Lake City brew pubs include: Desert Edge Brewery (273 Trolley Square; 801-521-8917) in a trolley station turned mall; Hoppers (890 Fort Union Boulevard; 801-566-0424; www.hoppersbrewpub.com); and Bohemian Brewery (94 East 7200 South; 801-566-5474; www.bohemianbrewery.com).

In Moab, microbrewery fans can try Eddie McStiff’s (57 South Main Street; 435-259-2337; www.eddiemcstiffs.com) or Moab Brewery (686 South Main Street; 435-259-6333; www.themoabbrewery.com).

The Zion Canyon Brewing Company (2400 Zion Park Boulevard, Springdale; 435-772-0404, www.zioncanyonbrewingcompany.com) is near Zion National Park.

North of Salt Lake City, the Roosters Brewing Company (www.roostersbrewingco.com) operates beer pubs in Ogden, near the Snow Basin ski area (253 Historic 25th Street; 801-627-6171) and nearby at 748 West Heritage Park Boulevard in Layton (801-774-9330).


Mormon church weighs in on 'alco-pop' sales issue

The Associated Press

January 17, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The Mormon church said Thursday it endorses the idea of moving sweet malt beverages known as "alco-pops'' out of Utah retail stores and onto the shelves of state-run liquor shops.

The drinks, which have a 3.2 percent alcohol content, are popular with underage drinkers and are sold in stores all over Utah.

"To allow the sale of distilled spirits in grocery and convenience stores promotes underage drinking and undermines the state system of alcohol control,'' said Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah's leading religion.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff believes the state should make it tougher for teens to get the drinks. The legal drinking age is 21.

Utah's Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has asked the Legislature to address the issue. Commission spokeswoman Sharon Mackay said the decision was partly driven by a need to define flavored malt drinks in state law.

Mackay said the commission has not been contacted by the Mormon church.

The commission has prepared a draft bill that would define the drinks as liquor, but no legislation has been formally introduced. Lawmakers start their annual session Monday.

"The church agrees with the position of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and the attorney general that the sale of distilled spirits, including so-called alcopops, should be restricted to state liquor stores,'' Farah said, reading from a statement.

With that statement, "there's no doubt that the battle just got tougher,'' James Olsen, president of the Utah Food Industry Association, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

The group represents more than 8,000 stores that sell flavored malt beverages.

Mormons are told to abstain from alcohol, but the church said it supports the state's philosophy that alcohol should be "reasonably available'' to responsible adults.

Ken Wynn ran the DABC for 30 years. Now, he wants to fix Utah’s crazy laws

By Stephen Dark



A lavender-lined path in Red Butte Garden leads to a quiet nook guarded by pines. Two benches there offer a tranquility punctuated by bird song and nearby children’s laughter. One is dedicated to the memory of Verna Wynn, the other to her son, Brian. When Brian died of AIDS in 1994, his father, Ken Wynn, asked for gifts to the arboretum in lieu of flowers. He did the same when his wife Verna died in 1999. Ken Wynn’s colleagues from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, where he was director for 30 years, and members of the hospitality industry, which the DABC oversees, contributed over $20,000 to pay for the alcove. For two groups who have fought many hard-bitten battles over Utah’s liquor laws, tragedy for two brief moments brought them together.


Ken Wynn is Utah’s “Mr. Liquor.” For 30 years, under four governors, Ken Wynn directed one of the state’s most powerful and controversial agencies, overseeing the sale and control of alcohol throughout Utah. Now 72, Wynn retired from the DABC in June 2007. A few months ago, he married for the second time. Along with this change in his personal life, the man who steered Utah’s $265 million-in-annual-sales liquor agency for three decades has taken a hard look at his life’s work.


And Wynn doesn’t like what he sees when it comes to how the DABC, in cahoots with the Attorney General’s office, bullies private clubs over alleged liquor-law violations.


“Kenny was a good soldier,” says Jim Sgueo, president of the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. “I never knew a director who had a better handle on finances and budgeting.” Wynn and his deputy, Dennis Kellen, ran the state’s liquor stores. Under Wynn for 18 years was also regulatory director Earl Dorius, who continues to manage the educational department that helps licensees comply with the law. Dorius also presides over prehearings with the attorney general’s office on licensee violations brought to him by law enforcement.


Wynn reported to the five-person commission, appointed by the governor to serve staggered terms. The commission is charged with implementing liquor laws, including approving new licenses and settlements with violators. Until recently, former DABC compliance officer-turned-attorney Rick Golden says the commission typically consisted of white, Mormon, male lawyers. Now, there’s a new commission in town—three women and two men, only two of whom are lawyers. Their mostly open-minded approach to Utah’s liquor laws is apparent in the recent staging of public hearings on repealing private-club membership requirements.


Wynn is now watching the commission and the DABC as a board member of the Utah Hospitality Association, a lobby group of bar owners. He takes no compensation for the job. A twinkling-eyed grandfather, Wynn drives around town in a Ford Thunderbird with a vanity license plate proclaiming “DA BIRD.” He approaches everything on his own terms, whether as a beer-friendly Mormon or in his work at the Utah Hospitality Association. The man who says he would often go home and pound the walls in frustration at the liquor laws the Legislature passed or at the dictatorial high-handedness of some former commissioners is now lobbying for a better world for Utah’s drinkers and liquor licensees. Finally, it seems, he’s free to speak his mind.


Wynn has survived two sons and his first wife, along with a bout of heavy drinking to cope with his grief. After Verna Wynn died, DABC’s spokeswoman and Wynn’s administrative assistant for seven years Sharon Mackay says the agency became his family. Indeed it’s tempting to see his former deputy, 65-year-old Kellen, now the DABC’s director, and regulatory director Dorius as Wynn’s younger brothers. Now, as if out of the script of a 1960s John Wayne Western, Wynn has returned to the ranch house to put his family—and his legacy—in order.

The “misbehaving” relative is ex-state prosecutor Earl Dorius. “He did a hell of a job for me,” Wynn says. But prosecution, he adds, is in Dorius’ blood, it’s his nature. And it’s Dorius’ punitive DABC role with which Wynn now finds fault.

“I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now,” Wynn says, over a beer at his friend Randy Finnas’ Murray establishment, the Barbary Coast Saloon. “It’s just a conflict of interest. You don’t license, regulate and punish all in the same spot.”


Yet Wynn oversaw the very process he’s now criticizing. He sat to the left of the commissioners each month, as they approved—or rejected—the settlements of bars and restaurants’ violations. So why, after so long, is he challenging Dorius, a man he regards as a friend? “I should have done it sooner,” Wynn admits.


For years, he thought the system was fine. Then, he heard some club operators were getting strong-armed. Wynn cites one club’s 2007 violation for serving an intoxicated person. The club received a letter proposing a 15-day closure for the alleged violation. The club’s manager called assistant attorney general Sheila Page to complain, Wynn says, that the punishment was too harsh. When the manager asked what would happen if the club appealed the sentence, Wynn says Page’s offered this response: He would get more than 15 days in the dark.


That Wynn should be standing up for bar owners against the DABC doesn’t surprise some. Former DABC compliance officer Golden recalls Wynn held little faith in what he describes as “detail-orientated rules, such as membership.” Wynn’s approach was simple, Golden says. “He was more of a ‘Let’s try and keep it simple, stupid. Keep your nose clean when it comes to serving minors or intoxicated customers.’”


Wynn’s personal tragedies showed licensees and the DABC could find common ground in a pine-sheltered alcove high above Salt Lake City. He hopes his new role will provide further reconciliation. “There’s no question there’s a sense of fear out there [among bar owners]—as much as I tried and tried over the years to convince them, “We’re not here to put you guys out of business, we’re here to keep you in compliance,’” Wynn says.


“I don’t want to do battle with the department, although I know it looks like that,” he adds. “It’s about fairness.”

Ken Wynn was born in 1936 in Thermopolis, Wyo. Raised by a strict Mormon mother and a bourbon-drinking father who resisted entering the LDS Church until his son was 32, Wynn shared some of his father’s diffidence about his mother’s faith.

While Wyoming, like Utah, is a liquor-control state, its approach to control is quite different. Wynn was raised with open public bars and billboards touting liquor. He drank his first beer when he was 19, just before he married Verna, as equally devout a Mormon as his mother. Just prior to the wedding, Wynn was baptized LDS. “I thought it was about time,” he says.


With a degree in bookkeeping, Wynn was appointed a state income-tax auditor in Eleanor, Mont., in 1962. After a theft and bribery scandal in Montana’s state liquor operations, Wynn in 1973 took over the newly formed liquor division. Despite his faith’s condemnation of alcohol, Wynn took a less critical view. “It’s a legal product, so I figured people have the right to drink if they wanted to,” he says.


Montana politics were controlled by an odd coalition of bankers, churches and cattlemen’s associations. Wynn took products off the shelves that weren’t selling, running afoul of liquor companies and their brokers. In 1977, Wynn’s new boss, a former beer distributor, fired him. Wynn was 41.


Utah Gov. Scott Matheson appointed Wynn director of the DABC in the fall of 1977. His wife had mixed feelings about leaving her first son’s grave behind in Montana. Two years before, at the end of a day of tobogganing, 17-year-old David tied his sled to the back of a car. As he rode the toboggan down the hill, he lost control, careened off the road and hit a rock. He had severe brain damage and was comatose for seven months, paralyzed from the neck down. “He’s not going to make it,” a doctor told the family. “I hated him,” Wynn says now about the pull-no-punches physician.


After David’s death, Wynn grew closer to his church. “I just thought we needed to get active, to get to the temple, to have our kids sealed to us,” he says, referencing the Mormon ritual to unify families for existence in an afterlife. Not that he experienced the moment of divine inspiration most Mormons cite as part of their rite of passage into the church. “I don’t know I ever got there, but I spent a lot of time praying,” he says.


In 1933, Utah was the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, and in so doing became the deciding vote in repealing national prohibition. But since enacting its own 1935 Liquor Control Act, Utah has been, in every sense of the word, a control state. The act established a government monopoly over liquor, making spirits only available in state-run stores. Unlike the other 17 control states, Wynn says, Utah regulates liquor for moral, rather than tax-revenue purposes.


LDS Church involvement in the liquor laws never surprised Wynn. The church was like any other special-interest group, he says, be it bankers or insurance companies.


Just how big a role the church played in liquor policy was apparent in the demise of the legendary mini-bottle in 1990. The forerunner to the Utah Hospitality Association, the Private Club Association and local law enforcement supported dumping the 1.7 ounce mini-bottle, in part because the volume of alcohol it contained got many people drunk. Then-compliance officer Rick Golden wrote a position paper advocating metered, one-ounce liquor dispensing. A bill proposing the new system garnered no support on Capitol Hill. Then, Golden’s paper, Wynn says, found some attentive readers in the LDS Church hierarchy. Overnight, 28 legislative co-sponsors signed on.


Wynn’s hardest years at the DABC were spent with commissioners he terms as “zealots.” Chief on his list is one-time chairman Nick Hales. Wynn complains Hales was “so Mormon,” dictatorial, and anti-alcohol. An attorney and Internet security business owner, Hales served from 1991 to 2007, seven years as chairman.


When the DABC wanted to list liquor stores in the phone book, Hales labeled it “advertising” and said no. “How could a phone number and an address be advertising?” Wynn growls. “It didn’t make sense.” Hales says the statute did not allow it but that eventually, they found a way around it.


Their biggest fight was in 2003 over amendments to private clubs that banned children from bars and social clubs. Dorius, Wynn says, went along with it, even when Wynn told his fellow LDS colleague how he’d take his 7-year-old grandson to a private club for lunch. Wynn had dated a woman who took her eight grandchildren to the Barbary Coast every Sunday for breakfast.


“Taking business away from bars was so unfair,” Wynn says. He and Hales argued, “and it got nasty,” Wynn says. He offered to raise the markup on alcohol a half percent if children could stay in bars until 6 p.m. “No deal, Ken,” Wynn says Hales told him. “I’ve already raised the markup 1 percent.” There was no negotiating with Hales. “He just did it,” Wynn says. Hales doesn’t remember any such conversation. He says he didn’t call the shots when it came to the laws. Wynn’s involvement in the legislative process, he adds, was minimal.

In his personal life, Wynn remained plagued by tragedy. In 1989, the Wynn’s second oldest son, 29-year-old broadcast journalist Brian, returned to Salt Lake City after several years working for Alaskan TV. He fell ill, although he never told his family what was wrong until 1994, when he was dying. By then, complications from AIDS had taken his eyesight.


Wynn and his wife, Verna, tended their son at home for the last months of his life. The Wynns were devout Mormons at the time. Ken Wynn had told his bishop he needed time off from teaching Sunday School because he was visiting his son daily in the hospital. When Brian came home, Ken Wynn was about to resume his ecclesiastical duties when he heard an LDS general authority gave a speech at Brigham Young University.


“It offended the hell out of me,” Ken Wynn recalls. “He basically condemned everybody, particularly gays and lesbians.” What was he supposed to do, Wynn remembers thinking: Throw his son out on the street? To hell with it, he thought.


“I kind of walked away from the church.”


When Brian died in 1994, Wynn says, his wife “just gave up.” Verna had struggled with lung problems much of her life. In 1999, suffering from anemia, she went into kidney failure.


“When he lost his children, he and his wife always had each other to lean on,” says national colleague Jim Sgueo. “When she passed away, he had a tough go of it for a while.” Wynn spent more and more time at work. Friends suggested he undergo therapy. He thought he could handle the mourning process. “Then something happened, I’d see a scene in a TV show, and I couldn’t handle it anymore.”


Wynn still struggles. He recalls Brian playing baseball as a child with his brothers, and says he could tell the boy was gay, based on his mannerisms. “It was just the way it was,” he says, his chin trembling. Wynn removes his glasses, wipes his eyes. “He was a neat, neat kid.”


The occasional drink became more frequent, Wynn says, to numb his grief. Not that the drinking affected his work. Wynn still arrived every day at 3 or 4 a.m., something he pointed out to Nick Hales when the commissioner came to “clear the air,” Wynn says, about rumors he was an alcoholic.


After Verna died, some liquor brokers and bar owners who shared his passion for golf took him under their wings. Wynn got to know several private-club owners well. “They were just good guys, trying to make a living,” he says. His empathy for bar owners grew the more he saw how they suffered under Hales’ commission. “There were times Nick just wouldn’t be reasonable,” Wynn says, with regard to implementing legislation to the letter or imposing draconian punishments of bars caught in alleged violations.


Hales’ and Wynn’s falling out was bookended by two scandals. A state audit revealed that between November 1998 and May 2003, DABC administrative manager Richard Pearson had misappropriated $130,308. Pearson, who hung up on a call from City Weekly for comment, was accused of using the agency’s petty-cash fund to make what the audit called “inappropriate disbursements both to [Pearson] and to others out of the account.” If there were other agency executives involved, only Pearson ended up in court.


The January 2004 published audit was “very critical of Ken and Dennis,” Hales says. Wynn, ever blunt, agrees. “The auditors would tell you we didn’t do our job; we should have dug that out a long time ago.” The commissioners wanted Pearson fired; Wynn refused. “Richard would give you the shirt off his back,” he says. “I wouldn’t do it.” Instead he let Pearson “retire.”


Pearson was convicted and served 150 days in jail. Wynn had other problems that year, too. While attending an out-of-town meeting of liquor agencies, he got drunk and made “out of line” comments he refuses to specify. A senior executive told Wynn such behavior couldn’t be tolerated. Wynn says he quit drinking hard liquor.


The chill between Hales and Wynn reached a deep freeze. For the last two years of Wynn’s leadership of the DABC, Hales did not communicate with its director. Hales spoke to Dorius or then Operations Manager Kellen. Wynn says he sent Hales e-mails asking what was wrong but received no reply.


Hales says their cold war is a private matter.


The men have never reached a truce. Consider the matter of Hales’ portrait at DABC headquarters. Just before Wynn retired, the framed photograph disappeared from the office gallery of commissioner portraits. Hales says he got a phone call shortly after he and Wynn retired last year telling him the picture had been removed. Hales’ only comment: “Ken’s a bitter man.”


Wynn says he doesn’t know about the picture’s fate—and couldn’t care less. “I would hope to never see that son of a bitch in the building again.”


A couple of years after the legislative audit on Pearson, the agency suffered another pummeling from a state audit—this time over allegations of double dipping. Between 2000 and 2005, 12 DABC senior employees took retirement, worked part-time for six months, then came back on full or half salaries. Earl Dorius was the first of two management chiefs to take advantage of a law enacted by the Legislature in January 2000. Newspaper editorials labeled the practice a loophole that needed closing.


“It was perfectly legal,” Wynn says defiantly. “I signed off on every single one of them. If I had to do it over again, I would.”


The final skirmish between Hales and Wynn was over Wynn’s replacement. Wynn says he e-mailed Hales, telling him he would retire after a successor had been named. Hales insisted Wynn would not name his own replacement. True to the tight-knit family nature of Wynn’s DABC, no national search was conducted for the position nor were other candidates considered. All five DABC commissioners approved the appointment of Dennis Kellen, who had Wynn’s back for 30 years as his deputy.


“There was a feeling Dennis had earned it,” Hales says.


Commissioner Kathryn Balmforth joined the board in 2005. She views her “yes” vote in the 2007 appointment as “engineered,” and it still rankles her a year later. It wasn’t that she opposed Kellen, she says. It was, simply, given the importance of the position, there was neither criteria for the appointment nor any evaluation of the candidate.


When Balmforth started on the commission three years ago, she noticed that then-director Wynn was, she says, “untouchable.” The only way he could be fired was to show cause. And since Wynn wasn’t evaluated from 1997 on, there was no way to document cause.


In the end, Hales and Wynn left on the same day, June 30, 2007. “Which really disappointed me,” Wynn says. “I wanted to outlast the son of a bitch so bad.”


Wynn even has a favorite to someday replace Kellen—52-year-old John Freeman. He replaced Kellen as deputy director. A friend of Wynn’s for 30 years, Freeman is also a certified peace officer. He keeps his police accreditation by doing 40 hours a year service at the Harrisville Police Department, north of Ogden.


In 2003, Freeman left a job managing Granite Furniture, where he’d worked for nearly 25 years, to join the DABC. After two years in the compliance division, Freeman took over human resources. While there, he assigned himself $16 per hour security work at the state liquor store at 205 West 400 South. Ken Wynn saw no conflict of interest. “He took a tremendous pay cut to come to us,” he recalls. “He needed some money and, [since he was] a certified police officer, I said, ‘Why not?’”


Whether Kellen and Freeman’s promotions are exactly in keeping with the agency’s mission statement of maintaining “sound management principles and practices,” is debatable. It’s clear, nevertheless, Wynn values loyalty to friends and to his DABC family. Even to the point, it might be argued, of ensuring long life for what appears to be an old-boys’ club. One indeed that will reflect his influence for years to come.


The Utah Hospitality Association was anxious to sign up the retired Wynn as a board member. “Just your name, your connections will help us,” board members told him. And Wynn has run with the assignment.


Back in 1989, Wynn brought Earl Dorius into the agency. Dorius’ relationship with the DABC dated back to 1981, when then-Assistant Attorney General Dorius was assigned to the liquor agency as legal counsel. Dorius enjoyed notoriety after handling the death-row appeals of one of the Ogden Hi-Fi Shop killers and Gary Gilmore’s execution. In late 1989, incoming Democratic Attorney General Paul Van Dam shuffled Dorius sideways into public utilities. Wynn says Dorius wanted out. 


Kellen and Wynn visited Gov. Scott Matheson and asked his blessing on adding Dorius as the DABC’s in-house attorney.


Dorius was also hearing examiner for a year, until he and Wynn decided it would be better for an external officer to hear violation cases that had not been resolved at pre-hearings. “I felt I could be fair, but I didn’t want the perception of unfairness,” Dorius says.


That, however, is exactly what he’s got. Clearfield’s Bogey’s club co-owner Mark Livingstone calls the prehearing process a “a kangaroo court.” Piper Down owner Dave Morris complains bar owners are automatically guilty in the DABC’s eyes.


Morris characterizes a meeting with Dorius and assistant attorney general Sheila Page: “They say, ‘This is what you did; this is what you get; end of story.’” Which is one reason why, Livingstone says, every licensee is scared to death of the DABC.


Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, says he heard from friends who own bars, including Livingstone, that Dorius and particularly Public Safety’s liquor-law-enforcement division were acting like “the Gestapo” going after bar violations. Oda threatened legislation to transfer Dorius’ punitive duties to the attorney general’s office and then accepted commitments from the DABC to effectively be “nicer” to licensees. Wynn praises Oda for raising the issue but says the bill “wouldn’t have done a damned bit of good. Page prosecutes the cases now and she wouldn’t change.” He suggests a full-time administrative law judge should deal with the pre-hearings. Whoever it is, the judge must know the liquor laws.


“Monday morning quarterbacking” is how Hales describes Wynn’s criticism of Dorius. Dorius’ reputation as someone who loves to close clubs down is undeserved, Hales says. “The biggest criticism from the conservatives on the commission was that Earl was too willing to do whatever he could to keep a licensee in place.”


What matters to Wynn, though, is that most bar owners don’t have the $20,000 (the cost bar owners cite) to fight a violation charge. They feel they have no choice but to roll over. “Earl’s got too many complaints from licensees about the heavy-handedness of the department,” Wynn says.


Dorius deflects his friend’s criticism. Their relationship is complicated. “Ken has a kind of love-hate relationship with me,” he says. “He genuinely loves me and the effort I’ve given this agency. He just doesn’t like this one little corner of what I do.” He adds with a strained laugh, “Hey, it’s my job.”


Civilian Wynn has a significant ally in new commission Chairman Sam Granato, who agrees on moving the screening and prehearings of violations out of the DABC. “We’re here to be [licensees’] friends, not their enemies,” deli and restaurant owner Granato says. He prefers providing a better training program for licensees rather than a punishment program. As to what legislators would make of such a move, he responds, “Wouldn’t that be interesting?”

When Wynn retired, he promised his tearful staff the process would be seamless. But there are differences in style between Wynn and Vietnam veteran Kellen. For a start, Wynn’s top rule as director was that he alone spoke for the department. Kellen, on the other hand, mirrors so many other agency heads these days by directing media inquiries to a public information officer.


Other departures from Wynn’s approach include on-hold music played on the telephone. Another is new electronic locks on all the doors.


Much of Wynn’s value to the Utah Hospitality Association is access. He recently took some of the UHA board to meet with Dorius, Freeman and Kellen. Several group members came away—to their own surprise—favorably impressed with Dorius.

“There’s room for coming to terms, for negotiation,” Wynn insists. And he’s playing a part in that, bringing his state-friendly profile to the fight. The governor’s office recently contacted Wynn for his own, and UHA’s, views on liquor control. When Wynn learned that cops had gone to a bar claiming the DABC had asked them to “keep an eye” on the place, he went straight to Dorius. Dorius denied giving those instructions. “Because of who I am, I can contact a licensee and say, ‘We’re not doing that,’” Wynn says.


As Wynn works for change in laws he represented for three decades, he also does the same in his private life. He and his new wife, Jeanene, have talked about going back to the LDS Church. He hasn’t decided whether to give up beer. “It’s part of the Word of Wisdom,” he says, referring to the church’s scriptural edict against tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.


He pauses for a moment before finishing his beer and paying off his tab. “When you hit that final judgment day,” he says with a quiet smile, “I don’t think that will be a big issue.”


Temple Square restaurants cater to Mormon cuisine

By Kathy Stephenson
The Salt Lake Tribune


   Buddy and Lori Jefferson could have celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary at a pricey steakhouse, an elegant French bistro or even a tiny Italian cafe while visiting Salt Lake City recently.
    Instead, the Idaho Falls couple chose a place that feeds the Utah soul - historic Temple Square.
    Their choice is not unusual.
    Each year more than 120,000 people of all faiths - from all over the world - dine at one of the four restaurants on the 10-acre site that serves as headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    "This is just the top of the world to come here," said Lori Jefferson as she gazed out the picturesque window of The Roof restaurant, located on the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at 15 E. South Temple.
    The Roof is Temple Square's fine dining establishment. It offers an expansive buffet with a one-of-a-kind view of the Salt Lake Temple, the LDS Tabernacle and the city's western skyline.
    The Garden Restaurant, also on the top floor of the Smith Building, has a more casual atmosphere - as does the Nauvoo Cafe, on the building's ground floor, and the Lion House Pantry, the cafeteria-style restaurant in the basement of Brigham Young's historic three-story home to the east.
    All four restaurants serve classic comfort food that is a trademark of the Mormon culture, says Neil Wilkinson, Temple Square Hospitality's marketing director.
    "No matter where they travel, guests want to come and experience the food of the area," said Wilkinson. "When you are in Amish country, you want an Amish experience. And when you are in Mormon country, you want a Mormon experience."
    Mormon food. While Texas is synonymous with barbecue and Louisiana is famous for gumbo, Mormon cuisine is more difficult to define. It requires an understanding of the people and their history.
    Members of the LDS faith typically have large extended families, all of whom devote significant amounts of time to church callings. Often only one spouse works and 10 percent of that lone income is tithed to the LDS church.
    While members today come from all over the world, the pioneers that settled Utah were mostly from Scandinavian countries, not necessarily known for their use of exotic spices or ingredients.
    All combined, that means Mormon meals - whether it is a weeknight dinner or a church pot luck - must be easy to prepare, economical and feed the multitudes. While that can include any number of foods from baked ham to spaghetti and meatballs, two foods have come to represent Utah culinary culture - Jell-O and cheesy "funeral" potatoes.
    Those stereotypes often overlook the baking skills of Mormon cooks. Many parents - mostly mothers - teach their children at an early age how to bake bread, rolls, cakes, cookies and pies, often using old-fashioned recipes that link them to their pioneer heritage.
    At a Temple Square restaurant, that means a gourmand will be disappointed. But for those who yearn for pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey pot pie or homemade rolls, this is the place.
    Tourist favorite. Wilkinson said Temple Square Hospitality's busy season starts in April with LDS General Conference and continues through September, when dining peaks.
    In June, for example, 18,000 people ate at one of the restaurant or banquet facilities. Of those, at least 50 percent were tourists, he said. The Lion House Pantry, famous for its fluffy dinner rolls, handled the bulk of the traffic, serving about 11,000 people.
    The numbers are not surprising when one considers that Temple Square is the capital city's biggest tourist attraction. Guests come to tour the immaculate gardens, hear the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing or search their genealogy. In between, they have to eat.
    Mary Ellen Elggren, owner of Clawson Shields Tours, said the Temple Square restaurants are a "double attraction" for tourists.
    "You can combine a meal with a historic building," she said.
    Because tour groups are often on a tight schedule - and budget - fast-food and chain restaurants are often where guests eat. Temple Square offers a more gratifying meal and satisfies the curiosity many have of the Mormons.
    "I really didn't know what to expect," admitted tourist Marge Lambert, a Wisconsin resident who ate at The Roof during a recent tour. "But I was looking forward to the experience."
    Tourists who purchase the Connect Pass or Connect Pass City Tour, through the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, also get a free meal at the Lion House, said Shawn Stinson, the director of communications.
    The passes allow tourists to pay one price and visit several city attractions. About 60 percent of those who buy the pass take advantage of the free meal. The comfort food is just part of the draw.
    "It's the epicenter of a world church and it's interesting to visitors," said Stinson, likening Temple Square to touring Vatican City, home to the Roman Catholic Church.
    Except, at St. Peter¹s Basilica, there isn't a restaurant next door that serves heavenly rolls.