So, how are they getting so many citations? Trickery and entrapment say critics.
State undercover liquor-control agents made lewd propositions to a waitress, then waved a $5 bill at a boisterous woman in a Clearfield club, daring her to expose herself in what they later explained were tactics to fit in with the crowd.This seems to be an easy fix if there is anything suspect going on: give DABC control of their investigative agents, hold those agents accountable, and train them.
At an American Fork restaurant, agents badgered a waiter into bringing them a round of beers, then ticketed the eatery for serving alcohol without a required meal.
And in a Salt Lake City pub, three agents ordered shots, two purposefully left the table, then they cited the server for delivering too many drinks.
Sam Granato is a Salt Lake restaurateur who also is board chairman of the DABC, whose staff prosecutes liquor violations uncovered in stings. He calls the tactics described above as "devious," but says he has no control over them because the agents are under the supervision of the Department of Public Safety.
It seems he is not alone in feeling powerless. For the past several years, state undercover agents have had uneven oversight and little training.
Only two agents on the 15-member team have been on the liquor squad for more than a year. And although the state of Utah generally sends agents to annual liquor-control workshops conducted nationally, no team members have received that training because of the high rate of turnover.
As for some of the tactics used by agents, Scott Duncan, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, said changes are in store.But it isn't just bar owners fighting back against the perceived underhanded tactics of DABC agents.
"Something went terribly wrong," said Duncan, who is Michaud's top boss and has been in the job since July 2006. "There are rogue cops out there, but I've been around long enough to know that [agents] do what their supervisors expect them to do."
But citing "ticky tacky" prosecutions, Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, recently sponsored a bill that would have transferred prosecution powers from the DABC to the Utah Attorney General's Office. Oda withdrew the bill after DABC board Chairman Granato pledged more cooperation with businesses.
In April, for the first time in memory, board members agreed (4-to-1) to impose a fine of $1,200 as penalty for serving alcohol to underage decoys. In the past, such violations brought a five-day suspension. Granato said because servers already are being criminally charged for providing alcohol to minors, he doesn't favor closing down establishments and taking away the livelihood of all employees.