Wednesday, July 30, 2008

the modernizing of Utah's liquor laws

(Utah State Liquor Store hours, by Don Nunn.)

[Note: there is a bill in the state senate to end the election day ban of liquor sales, as well as a push to end the ban on Sunday far, neither has been successful.]

When my college friends came out to Utah for my wedding (or any other time out of staters come to visit me), I had to sit them down and explain to them that a "private club" was really just a bar and that a "temporary membership fee" was just a mandatory cover charge, as well as the near impossibility of bar hopping. I also had to give them a summary of the "sidecar" rule and about Utah's falsely labeled "weak" beer. They looked at me with confusion and disbelief. Could it really be so Byzantine, they wondered? What a farce, some said. Others compared it to South Carolina's mandatory mini-bottle rule. Our state's laws with regards to alcohol are so counter-intuitive that the tourism office has a whole page dedicated to explaining the particularities of the Beehive State's liquor laws on their website.

First, the legislature did away with the sidecar last session, simultaneously making a Utah shot the same as a shot anywhere else in the world.

Second, it seems that "private clubs" might soon become bars and the usual meaning of word will return to Utah.
The state moved slightly closer to eliminating private club memberships, with members of the liquor commission requesting that legislation be drafted that would do away with the applications and fees now required of patrons.
But there was division among the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission members over whether the change sought by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is needed to accommodate drinkers, especially those just visiting the state.
Huntsman hopes to persuade the 2009 Legislature to eliminate private clubs. The LDS Church, which counsels its members to avoid alcohol, has yet to weigh in on the issue.
The Church's opinion on such matters is key. If the Church is persuaded that changing the rule is wise, then it will pass. If they oppose, the bill is dead in the water. But if they remain neutral, my bet is that teh proposal will be kicked down the road again.

Gov. Huntsman also wants to get rid of the "Zion Curtain" --the rule that there must be a physical barrier (these days, a piece of fogged glass usually does the trick) between the dining and drinking portions of a restaurant that wishes to have a bar inside. But that one, he agrees, must take a back seat to the private club fight, and will be shelved for another year.

Huntsman's push for ending private clubs means of all of the proposed reforms, this one stands the greatest chance of passage. The election day bill is sponsored by Sen. Scott McCoy, who is a Democrat from the Avenues who is openly gay...which means he has a tough time getting bills passed. And the Utah Restaurant Association is pushing Sunday sales as well as the private club bill, but they will need to wine and dine the mostly non-drinking legislators more to get these changes through (pun intended).

1 comment:

Tomás said...

Hey Don,
Good job on this essay.
I'm a exchange student from Brazil living in Cedar City and I think this is a mess. Just because the people is mostly LDS doesn't mean they can approve those laws. And I think that the tourism is going to decrease with that.


Tomas Susemihl