By Senator Jerry Stevenson, District 21
Published: February 28, 2017 – 11:30 AM
Updated: March 1, 2017 – 5:00 PM

H.B. 442 Alcohol Amendments is a comprehensive alcohol reform bill sponsored by Representative Brad Wilson and myself. While we still anticipate some minor changes, the bill represents the collaborative efforts of many of Utah’s stakeholders affected by our alcohol policy. Because H.B. 442 is a pretty long and complicated bill, I wanted to outline a summary of the changes under the current bill.  In essence the bill would streamline and standardize Utah’s liquor laws by improving prevention measures, updating restaurant and retailer operations, clarifying licensing regulations, and simplifying the makeup DABC advisory board.

Prevention Measures

H.B. 442 includes improved prevention measures which are focused on youth education as well as on-premise and off-premise trainingprograms. Two new underage drinking prevention programs will be implemented in the 8th and 10th grades. These programs will focus on the tools to address the dangers of underage drinking and the risks of drinking and driving. This bill would also mark up the price of alcohol by 2%, with these earnings going back into the school lunch program and these underage drinking prevention efforts.

There will also be improved training requirements for new licensees and every three years to renew an existing liquor license.  This training will concentrate on statute awareness, operating requirements, prevention of over-consumption, prevention of selling to minors, and the implementation of age verification tools.

Retailer, Restaurant, and Bar Operations

On-Premise
One of the major areas for this new policy implementation is “On-Premise” or restaurants and bars that prepare and serve alcohol directly to customers. Under H.B. 442 these establishments must have a Responsible Alcohol Service Plan (RASP).  This plan will consist of a written set of policies and procedures that outline measures to prevent employees from over-serving alcoholic beverages to customers and serving alcoholic beverages to minors. This regulation will apply to all new licensees and upon the regular renewal of existing licenses.

Under the current bill there are two options for a dispensing area: The first is a physically separate area that prevents patrons seated in the dining area or waiting area from viewing the dispensing of alcohol (the current “Zion Curtain”). Or a restaurant has the option of an area that is essentially a 10-foot radius around the dispensing structure (no physical separation requirement). Or a 42” high permanent physical structure at least 72” away from the dispensing structure (Pony Wall). Restaurants can comply by meeting either of those requirements, and minors are not allowed in either type of dispensing area. The bill would also require electronic age verification for the dispensing area and signage at the entrance stating “Restaurant not a bar.”

Off-Premise
Another major area for alcohol policy reform is “Off-Premise.” These are convenience stores, grocery stores, or any business that engages in the retail sale of alcohol for consumption off the retailer’s premises. H.B. 442 requires retailers to move all beer and like products to two locations and separate the beer from other beverages. The bill requires department approval of a product’s labeling and packaging if the product looks like a nonalcoholic product or could confuse mislead a consumer to believe that the product does not contain alcohol. This requirement for approval falls on the manufacturer. The bill will also give the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control authority in the issuance of licenses to ‘off-premise’ retailers. However, local law enforcement will retain authority for the Eliminate Alcohol Sales to Youth (EASY) program.

Licensing

H.B. 442 will implement a new flat license fee of $1650. It will update the licensing specifications on how far a bar or restaurant may be from a community location such as a school, church, library, playground or park. Under this bill, a restaurant cannot be located within 450 feet walking distance from a community location, or within 200 feet of a measured straight line. One other notable change to the proximity requirements is that the commission can no longer grant a variance to the requirements. Existing licensees operating under a previously granted variance can continue to operate under it.

The bill will standardize all licensees and create a clear distinction between bars and restaurants. To do this the bill removes all club licenses and requires all ‘grandfathered’ restaurants to comply with the same standards as other restaurants. “Dining Clubs” will migrate to either a bar or restaurant. Additionally, a “club license” would become a “bar establishment license”, “equity club license” would be “equity license”, and “fraternal club license” would be “fraternal license.” The bill would also simplify the dual/multiple licensing issues with a one license per room policy. The exception would be an establishment with a restaurant license and a banquet or reception center license. In that case, the different licenses cannot operate at the same time.

All licensees – including ‘grandfathered’ restaurants must comply with new requirements or surrender their license by July 1, 2018. This allows for a sizeable window for establishments to decide how they would like to fulfill the new requirements.

DABC Advisory Board

Currently, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) Advisory Board is comprised of 12 members, 11 voting members and one non-voting member. Of the voting members, 10 come from the retail industry, and the chair of the Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory Council is the final voting member. This bill will reduce the Board to 9 total members with 8 voting members and one non-voting member.

Not only is the number of board members changing, but the make-up of the board will also change. Under the new structure, three appointed members will represent the alcohol industry; two appointed members will represent an alcohol or drug abuse prevention, enforcement, or education group; the director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, and the chair of the Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory Council is the final voting member.

Senator Jerry Stevenson, Floor Sponsor of H.B. 442 Alcohol Amendments