SANDY, Utah — A Utah man who police say ran a speakeasy out of his garage for years in the middle of a suburban residential neighborhood has been arrested after he sold drinks to an undercover officer.
Jared Williams, 33, of Sandy has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge of running a business without a license, court records show. He was arrested on June 13 by several Sandy police officers who converged on his house.
Police had been hearing about problems in the neighborhood for some time, but finally got a specific tip about Williams' house in May, said Sandy Police Sgt. Jon Arnold. The undercover officer went there in early June and had a drink alongside about 10 other people.
The man behind the counter identified himself as Jared and reportedly told the officer he had started the bar with his father in 2006, show records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune. Arnold said Williams had a regular full-time job and opened the bar in the evenings.
Williams' speakeasy was known as the "Dog Bar," named for a bulldog painted on the garage door.
Sandy police seized 106 bottles of liquor, 77 cans of beer, a Jagermeister shot machine, nearly $750 in cash and a cash register, records show.
Police made the case a priority because of the problems that come with having a bar in an area where children play and families live.
"Adults can have parties and hang out. There is nothing wrong with an adult having an adult beverage," Arnold told The Associated Press. "But obviously, when you have a bar in a neighborhood, that creates problems. ... Sometimes people don't make good choices when they are out drinking alcohol."
Williams' attorney, Christopher Ault, told The Associated Press that the charge is minor and unworthy of the public attention it is receiving.
"The fact that is has become some community uproar is interesting," Ault said.
He declined to discuss any details about what happened because the case is still playing out in courts. He said he hasn't seen the evidence that prosecutors have, and doesn't know why more than a dozen Sandy police officers went to Williams' house to make the arrest.
Calls to a phone number listed for Williams were not answered.
Utah restricts permits for bars based on population quotas. That's just one aspect of the state's notoriously strict liquor laws, which are rooted in fears that easing the restrictions could lead to more underage drinking and drunken driving.
The majority of Utah legislators and residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches its members to abstain from alcohol.
Local police usually handle these types of arrests and there is no statewide tally, but clandestine bars seem to be very rare in Utah, said Dwayne Baird, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety.
That may be because Utah residents take great pride in their neighborhoods and aren't shy about reporting unsavory activities to police, Baird said.
"If they hear that some guy has decided to open a bar on their street, neighbors there are going to say, 'Not in my neighborhood you're not,'" Baird said. "With the culture that we have here you are not likely to get away with it."