SANTA CLARA — A French restaurant located in the historic and now restored Granary in downtown Santa Clara has received an OK from the City Council to seek what is believed to be the city’s first restaurant liquor license.
The restaurant opened in January, and owners Wayne Johnson and his wife, Patricia Nevot Johnson, want to sell wine and beer, in keeping with their café’s French theme and cuisine, Wayne Johnson said.
While Santa Clara city officials contacted by St. George News said they are not 100 percent sure, they agreed it may well be the first restaurant liquor license issued in the city’s history.
Johnson said he believes it is the first, as does City Manager Ed Dickie. Councilman David Whitehead and Dickie both said it is the first such license in the three or four years they have been involved with the city.
“We didn’t have any opposition,” Whitehead said. “They met the requirements that were necessary, so we issued them their permit to move forward.”
While the city has approved the liquor license, the restaurant owners still have to go through the state application process to get the license.
“We don’t anticipate there being any issues or problems,” Whitehead said.
The permit will receive yearly reviews, he said, so if there are any problems, the council will be able to address them.
Restaurants in Santa Clara have had trouble getting established and staying in business, Whitehead said, but the downtown area is starting to develop with more things for people to do, including fine dining.
“We’re very excited about the growth and development in Santa Clara,” he said. “We don’t want to rush anything; we want things to happen naturally in their own time and make sure that we can manage whatever growth happens.”
The Granary Café
The Granary Café, located at 3105 Santa Clara Drive, is set under large, sprawling shade trees that line the main road through the historic downtown area. The grounds of the restaurant are lush, with water features, heritage roses and other greenery enhancing the outdoor dining experience.
“Pat and I had a vision of what we wanted it to be,” Wayne Johnson said.
Johnson’s wife, café chef Patricia Nevot Johnson, is French, and the couple returns to France frequently. They like the south of France and so modeled the restaurant after establishments in the Provence region, with lots of outdoor seating.
Wayne Johnson designed and planned the building’s restoration, and he now handles the flowers and landscaping. He continues to work at improving the grounds and the restaurant, which currently seats 100 people.
The Granary offers wine appreciation and pairing classes and this year members of the class will travel to France. The St. George Wine Club also meets at the Granary, Wayne Johnson said.
Even though the café does not yet have a liquor license, private parties can serve wine if the restaurant is closed or if the party is in a separate area.
The Granary’s menu features authentically prepared French country food, including crepes, quiches, sandwiches and French toast that is soaked overnight and then baked. The one exception to the French cuisine is a Reuben sandwich with authentic sauerkraut – a tribute to the border France shares with Germany.
Historic tithing granary
According to the Washington County Historical Society, the Granary is a historical Mormon tithing granary originally thought to have been built in 1902 or 1903. However, new information suggests it was actually built in 1864 or 1865 on orders from Brigham Young.
Current owners the Johnsons acquired the property about five years ago and began restoring the deteriorating building with the help of Orson Kimball, a recognized architectural restorer.
Wayne Johnson previously restored two historical buildings in Sanpete County, and he designed and planned the Granary restoration.
The building is unique in that the foundation is constructed of lava rocks, which are strong and don’t absorb water, while the rest of the walls are made of limestone blocks. Mortar between the limestone blocks was very deteriorated, and it required nearly 5,000 pounds of mortar to repair the walls.
The restored building was leased to two other restaurant operators before the Johnsons opened it as a French café in January.
A little Utah history
Tithing granaries were common in Utah communities from the time the territory was settled up until the first decades of the 20th century, according to information from the Washington County Historical Society. The structures were used for storing grain and other produce donated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to fulfill their tithing obligations.
Few stone granaries existed, according to the historical society, so the Santa Clara granary is a unique example of these early pioneer buildings, as it is constructed of stone.
The Santa Clara tithing granary was only used for a short time, as the church discontinued acceptance of in-kind contributions as Utah transitioned into a cash economy.
The granary sat vacant for several years until Emil Gubler bought the property from the church in 1926, and a portion of the property was parceled off to Adolph Hafen for construction of a new grocery store, according to the historical society.
When the Johnson family restored the Granary, it was done with an emphasis on preserving the historic look and adhering to tradition, according to information from the historical society.
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