A family-run state liquor package agency in Richmond is back in business after the owner’s grandson regained the license from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“The few customers I’ve had today were glad to see the sign open,” Justin Harris said Wednesday afternoon, a couple hours after opening the shop’s doors to the public for the first time in two months.
The agency is located at 19 W. Main Street and is open from noon to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Harris is the agency’s new manager and the grandson of owner Terry Nivison. He’s taken the agency’s hiatus as a chance to renovate, clearing out a partition and opening the back area up. A few shelves behind the register house the liquor selection, and Harris is working on building up stock.
“The whole time I was renovating and whatnot, the people were always pushing on the door trying to figure out what the heck’s going on,” Harris said. “Like, ‘You guys got shut down?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, don’t you read the paper?’”
The location has been in Harris’ family for 80 years. It’s sold liquor since the end of Prohibition, Harris said, and although it was a drugstore back then, he can point out the small glass cabinet that used to house the liquor selection.
The DABC revoked the store’s license in May after a family member then employed at the shop had been cited for selling to minors, drinking on the job and having open containers of alcohol in the store.
The DABC requested Harris and Nivison appear before its board in April, which they did. They explained that the employee in question was terminated and evicted from the residence above the shop immediately after they heard of the citation. Nobody lives there now, Harris said.
The board decided to terminate its agreement with the family effective May 15 and put it back out to bid, allowing Harris to reapply but also leaving the door open to other bids. There was one other bid, hoping to bring the package agency to Smithfield, Harris said, but DABC decided to award it to him in Richmond.
The Richmond location helped, Harris said. Smithfield would be a little too close to the state liquor store in Logan, and DABC wants to keep retailers distributed. Logan’s liquor store is often busy, however — “It’s a madhouse,” Nivison says — that customers will often drive north to Richmond to avoid the crowds and the traffic.
“There’s a lot of people who like us,” Harris said. “They either don’t want to deal with what’s going in Logan or they don’t want to drive to Preston. Plus the local base in the community and everything that’s always been here.”
The Richmond agency is a plus for law-abiding residents of the state’s northern extremity, as transporting alcoholic beverages across the Idaho border into Utah is a crime.
Harris said he’s listening to customers as he develops the agency’s selection.
“There’s a base sense of what everybody carries because everybody likes their cheap Canadian, their cheap vodka, cheap bourbon,” Harris said. “And then you just go off of word-of-mouth. Some of it’s from personal taste-testing experiences and from what you carry and what you like.”
The shop is a little off the beaten path and the state doesn’t allow them to advertise. They often have new customers telling them they didn’t know there was a liquor package agency in Richmond, especially any time it’s mentioned in the news. Nivison jokes that he’d like to buy an ad for LD’s Cafe and give directions as two doors west of the Utah State Liquor Agency.
That’s not to say the DABC revoking the package agency contract for two months has been a boon, even with the media attention. The May 15 closure fell on Richmond’s Black & White Days festival — “Our busiest week of the year,” Harris said.
“The state lost a lot of money,” Nivison added.
There was a jump in customers after Cherry Peak Ski Resort began operation in 2014, bringing more people up Richmond’s Main Street. The bump from that has slowed, Nivison said, but they’re optimistic for the agency’s future.
The DABC runs all liquor stores in the state, but in less populated areas they also contract with package agencies like the Richmond shop. There are more than 100 package agencies spread throughout Utah, but most of them are attached to other businesses such as resorts, hotels and distilleries. Only 27 agencies are Type 3 like Richmond’s, which exist “for the sole purpose of selling liquor.” After Richmond, the closest privately operated Utah liquor store to Cache Valley is the “Tremonton Package Agency” in Garland. After that is one more than an hour away from Logan in Morgan.