ST. GEORGE — Already a familiar face downtown, owner and chef of the Twisted Noodle Cafe Cameron Payne is expanding his footprint in what is becoming known as the arts district.
If all goes as planned, Payne will open the doors to Hive 435 — a taphouse offering 30-50 regional craft beers, wine, mixed drinks, Silver Reef Rootbeer and an upscale menu — on the ground floor of the City View apartment complex in January. However, because of the high demand and limited availability of state liquor licenses from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Hive’s opening could be delayed until after the first quarter.
The nearly 4,000-foot commercial space will showcase a 37-foot bar, televisions, live music and something a bit unusual for St. George, a dart room that could double duty as a space to hold events.
Payne was born in Prescott, Arizona, and attending high school in St. George. After culinary school, he returned to Southern Utah to open Twisted Noodle, a fast-casual restaurant, six years ago. Located in the heart of Main Street, running the cafe has offered its owner a “great” perspective on the potential of business opportunities in the area.
Despite the challenge of opening a new business during COVID-19, it’s full steam ahead, Payne said.
“I think Utah is in a good position,” he said. “Even though we are going through a national pandemic, St. George seems to be pushing forward with development.”
With the gravitas of working for culinary greats such as Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina, Payne has the training to pull off a tavern menu with flair.
“I see it as a tweener, somewhere between a restaurant and to-go,” he said. “A lot of bar food is fried, but our menu will take fresh food made from scratch that will have a different spin to them.”
When Hive 435 opens, it will join only a handful of other bars downtown.
With three remaining bar licenses still available in the six-block area of downtown, some city council members have expressed concerns about the arts district turning into the bar district.
“I think the arts district is way too small for six bars, and I want to go back or have staff look at that,” Council member Michele Randall said.
Against the idea of Hive 435, Council member Jimmie Hughes is concerned with community image.
“I might be the prude … for a change,” he said during the Council’s Sept. 3 meeting. “This isn’t a Utah thing. There are other (places) that are dry counties, and for some people, there is a real danger with alcohol and the way it’s used. The question is, downtown, what are we striving to do? Is this the bar district? Is that where we are headed?”
Hughes added that he is sympathetic to the diversity of St. George and the desire of some residents for a more robust nightlife, but is unsure if bars are the right answer.
“If we want to invite families downtown, are there families that will avoid the area because it’s a bar district?” Hughes said. “I am okay with people who want to drink responsibly. … But it’s okay for the council to have the discussion and where we are headed.”
In an answer to their concerns, Payne said his vision is not to have a bar that caters to excess, but a place that embraces the “fun vibe” of downtown and be somewhere for people to go and have a good time.
“Even though we are operating under a bar license, we don’t want to be known as a bar,” he said. “We want to be known as a community-friendly business and the neighborhood place where everyone wants to go to. We want to push fun time, we don’t want to push drunk.”
The council approved Hive 435’s conditional use permit in a vote of 3-2 with Hughes and Randall voting against.
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