TWIN FALLS — When the owners of Elevation 486 were considering a location on the canyon rim in 2010, they were somewhat daunted.
Back then, it was kind of off the beaten path, explained Tom Nickel, one of the restaurant’s partners. While he knew the view and good service would eventually bring people, he didn’t know if that would be enough in the short term. But one positive for Nickel and his partners was a guaranteed liquor license that could be leased along with the building.
“I knew from the get-go that there was a liquor license included,” Nickel said. “Had it not included a liquor license, I would have definitely been not as likely to do it.”
He’s continued his lease of the liquor license ever since. It’s paid off, as Elevation spent more than $80,000 on liquor last year, more than any other establishment in Twin Falls.
But selling liquor is “not like it used to be,” Nickel said. “It’s definitely not a slam-dunk anymore.”
With more establishments in the area, more competition exists.
Nickel also owns The Sawtooth Club in Ketchum, which leases its liquor license from its building owner. The Sawtooth Club spent nearly $71,000 on liquor in the 2017 fiscal year, according to state records.
Nickel hasn’t ever owned a liquor license, but he does feel some regret about not getting on the waiting list for one.
“Years and years ago, I should have done that,” he said. “I don’t have the financial wherewithal to buy a license.”
Businesses leasing their liquor licenses still have to follow the same rules as those who own them. Mario Regalado, another of Elevation 486’s partners, has to make sure every bottle he picks up from the state-run liquor store on Pole Line Road has a sticker from the state. That sticker must be destroyed when the bottle is emptied to ensure that smuggled liquor is not used to refill an old bottle.
Regalado picks up his orders from the state-run liquor store every Friday and Monday to stock up and replenish from the weekend.
“Friday and Saturday, between the both nights we probably sell more liquor than the rest of the week,” Regalado said.
What’s most popular right now are local spirits — such as the 44 North Huckleberry Vodka.
While Elevation has never pursued buying its own liquor license or joining a waiting list since opening, Nickel and his partners will soon play the liquor license game once again.
In the spring, they plan to open a brew-pub in the former Historic Ballroom downtown. Nickel hopes the landlord will seek to offer another license for lease.