A bar near the Spanish Fork-Springville Airport probably isn’t the place most people would think to go for fine dining or any kind of “nightlife” — but the new majority owners of Maple Mountain Bar and Gourmet Grill are looking to change that.

It started a little over three months ago, when the owner of what used to be just the Maple Mountain Bar, Phil Henderson, reached out to Jason Lawson. Lawson retired just a couple of years ago after spending his career in sales and marketing.

“They kind of had a little bit of the ‘watering hole/dive bar’ thing going on, which works in a lot of major cities, but it was a little bit of a difficult model here in more rural areas,” Lawson said of the bar. “(Phil) contacted me looking for some new business partners, looking to evolve from … a watering hole to more of a restaurant bar and grill style place.”

Already bored of retirement, Lawson said he was looking for something to occupy his time, and becoming a 50/50 partner with Henderson and owning half of the bar sounded like the right thing to do. Recently, Lawson and his wife Liz become majority owners, after a third couple bought 25% of the business.

“I’ve taken two years off traveling with family and just kind of enjoying life … so we were ready to get back to work,” Lawson said.

The first major overhaul was turning the bar into a bar and “gourmet grill.” Although Lawson graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in hospitality and hotel restaurant management, he had no real restaurant experience. However, he and his wife have traveled together all over the country and the world.

“We kind of consider ourselves connoisseurs of good food and good drinks and good atmospheres, and always wanted to kind of create that for ourselves and for our family and friends in the community,” Lawson said. “We just took all the different things that we liked from all the different restaurants and bars, and we just kind of created our own menu based on that.”

In addition to more traditional bar fare, such as chicken wings and nachos, the “gourmet grill” also offers dishes like fillet mignon and salmon. The second big change was updating the drinks menu, expanding beyond simple drinks to include a wide array of mixed cocktails, martinis, and drinks.

“None of the franchise places like Texas Roadhouse or Outback have a big selection of fancy cocktails, and obviously, none of the little smaller local bars have that type of selection,” Lawson said.

As a local business, Maple Mountain Bar and Gourmet Grill is also trying to support other local businesses. The steak is all sourced locally from local butchers and ranchers, Lawson said, and all produce that’s in season is currently coming from local farms as well. It drives up the cost a bit, but Lawson said people are starting to care more about where their food comes from and so far the price hasn’t been a problem.

“(People) are willing to pay a little bit extra and know that they’re getting better food and it’s … local,” he said. “We are true believers in supporting our local community and buying as much as we can local here.”

The menu changes are part of trying to attract new clientele. Some other major changes made to attract a variety of customers include what Lawson calls “themed rooms,” of which there are four — a room with pool tables, another room dedicated to karaoke, and another room with a dance floor and an in-house DJ system, and a large back patio with a large gazebo.

“We’re kind of a one-stop-shop; we kind of have everything in one location where not only can one person come and walk around and enjoy the different vibes and the different themes … everybody can have a good time,” Lawson said. “It’s really unique … I’ve traveled the world, and going to a lot of bars and restaurants and clubs, and I’ve never seen anything that has all these different themes in one location.”

By Carley Porter Daily Herald Aug 22, 2019