Food & Drink

Bring on the bourbon — Downtown restaurant finally gets it liquor license back

Craft cocktails spring into summer

Cool off during the hot days with a variety of new craft cocktails being offered at The Modern Hotel and Bar, The Mode Lounge and Saint Lawrence Gridiron.
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Cool off during the hot days with a variety of new craft cocktails being offered at The Modern Hotel and Bar, The Mode Lounge and Saint Lawrence Gridiron.

UPDATE Sept. 20, 2017: It’s been a long dry summer at Saint Lawrence Gridiron, 705 W. Bannock St., Boise, but the drought is now over and the bourbon is back. Owner Brian Garrett was finally able to acquire another liquor license after the one he opened with was sold to the Downtown Marriott in July.

The cocktails will started shaking (and stirring) at the Downtown restaurant today.

The process of getting a license took much longer than expected, Garrett says. In the meantime the bar has poured wine and beer, and was even forced to close for dinner for several days in August.

“It’s been tough,” Garrett says. “There are a lot of hoops to jump through and if any one thing goes wrong, you’re screwed. This set us back as about six months.”

Now, he’s just happy to be running full bar again, including the restaurant's mainstay — the old fashion. The classic concoction of bourbon, bitters and sugar is the go-to match for the Gridiron's signature brisket platter.

“It’s the perfect marriage,” Garrett says. “The brisket looks at the old fashioned and says, ‘you complete me.’”

Saint Lawrence is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Original story, posted July 11, 2017:

Patrons at Saint Lawrence Gridiron, 705 W. Bannock St., Boise, will have to wait for that finely crafted cocktail to go along with the restaurant’s signature smoked brisket platter.

The restaurant lost its liquor license last week when the license’s owner sold it to a new Downtown Boise hotel, says Gridiron owner Brian Garrett.

“We were leasing from a developer up north, and we were planning on re-upping for a more long-term deal,” Garrett says. “At the end of the term he told us the Downtown Marriott had purchased it.”

Idaho bases the number of available licenses on population, so there are a finite number in the market. (The formula is one license for every 1,500 people.) You can get on a waiting list to buy one directly from the state for $800 per year. It’s a lucrative investment as restaurants pay $1,500 or more per month for a lease.

To buy one on the open market you’d have to fork over between $160,000 and $170,000, Garrett says.

“For a small restaurant like us, it doesn’t make sense to buy one and being on the waiting list can take years,” Garrett says.

The Idaho State Police’s Alcohol Beverage Control is preparing to release several licenses in the coming weeks, says ABC’s Nichole Harvey. There currently are 55 people on that waiting list.

After July 1 of any year, as estimated population numbers come in, more licenses may or may not be created.

The people in line to purchase one now have been on the list since 2004 and 2005.

Garrett turned his food truck into a brick-and-mortar operation in 2014 and has been building a steady following ever since. His strong craft cocktail program is an important part of the success, he says.

That’s halted for the moment while Garrett seeks another hard liquor license to lease. He says, he is honing in on a possibility that he is hopeful will come through soon.

In the meantime, he’s stepping up his beer and wine selection and his bar manager Mitch Mandujano is concocting “temperance” cocktails made with beer and wine in the spirit of Prohibition.

“As weird as it is, these are the games we play,” Garrett says.

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