Callaway argues case for alcohol with Smithfield council
By Casey Hobson
After opening the floor for a public hearing, the Smithfield City Council said it would take time to further examine the city ordinance that prohibits the sell of liquor within 440 yards of any school or church -- an ordinance from which Callaway requested a variance Jan. 27.
The council set no time limitation on its examination of the ordinance.
"I hate variances," Councilman Keith Fortie said. "If there's something wrong with the ordinance, then let's change the ordinance so we're not giving out variances."
Callaway, whose restaurant is 260 yards from Summit Elementary School, said the ordinance causes an unjust hardship for his business. The council has the power to grant variances if such hardships exist. However, several council members said they needed a better definition of what clearly constitutes a hardship.
"I think it might be good if we contact the state to see exactly what is a hardship," City Manager James Gass said. "I'm having a real hard time defining that."
Though the council did not deny Callaway a license, the prolonged deliberation could have the same effect on his business. As the restaurant's popularity has grown, so has Callaway's need for a bigger facility. However, he said he's reluctant to sink anymore money into a location where he can't serve alcohol.
"I know we're losing business," Callaway said. "The hardship is definitely there."
Callaway estimates he gets close to 20 calls a week from people asking if he serves alcohol. He knows the majority of the people who call end up eating in Logan at chain-restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday's and Chili's -- restaurants that serve both beer and wine, and are a few miles down the road. He said losing those customers to other restaurants is costing him nearly $60 a night.
"I don't really want to have to sell it," Callaway said of the liquor. "It's just more bookkeeping I've got to do. But I just think it's the next natural step."
Utah requires 600 feet between schools and establishments that sell alcohol. Callaway Pizza passes those standards by 180 feet. Both the 7-Eleven and the Country Shopper are closer to Summit Elementary than Callaway Pizza, and both sell alcohol, although not for on-premises consumption. Callaway said both stores pose more of a threat to the area than his restaurant would.
"We've got control over what comes out of there," he said of would-be alcohol sells at his restaurant. "If (customers are) too drunk to drive, they're not getting out of my parking lot."
Only two other people voiced concern with regards to a possible variance from the ordinance.
"Personally, I don't see an extreme hardship," said Smithfield resident Merrilee Wells. "As soon as you start granting variances. . . you set a precedence that can be hard to overcome. That's kind of scary because the ordinance is there to protect an area."
Smithfield resident Michael Nicholls said he knows those who might purchase alcohol at Callaway Pizza would do so merely to drink it with their meals, not to get sloppy drunk. He said denying Callaway a license to sell alcohol could hurt the community more than it would help it.
"This is the best Italian food you can find in the valley," he said.
"It's not that I have to have a beer with my pizza, but it's what the restaurant does for the community."
Callaway Pizza opens at 4 p.m. and is closed Sundays.