By John Valentine
Utah State Senator, District 14
In 2009, Utah adopted historic changes in its alcohol laws, including repealing of private clubs requiring membership. We articulated three important governing principles to be analyzed when considering any alcohol legislation:
How does a change affect public safety including DUIs?
How does a change affect consumption by Minors?
How does a change affect over-consumption?
A fourth one was added last year:
How does a change affect enforcement?
We are now tasked with making additional changes in response to an ever changing landscape, while maintaining the four governing principles.
So what does “The Alcohol Bill” do this session? The short answer is, a lot:
1. It preserves the number of alcohol licenses that have been issued, while adding 40 new licenses for restaurants. Utah, as a control state for liquor, has had a quota on the number of tavern, restaurant and bar licenses that can be issued, based upon population. Even so-called license states such as California have such restrictions. With the census data now showing a slower population growth than estimated, we have actually issued more licenses than permitted by law. The bill will fix this problem and adds 40 additional restaurant licenses.
2. It permits the sale of an existing license, subject to the approval of the DABC, commencing on July 1, 2012. So, if a restaurant owner has an alcohol license, and the owner decides to sell the restaurant, the alcohol license could be sold with the property.
3. It enacts a new reception center license. Reception centers licenses will all expire on July 1, 2011, unless action is taken by the legislature.
4. It requires taverns to screen proof-of-age electronically like other bars and social clubs.
5. It defines the conflict of interest rules for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control commissioners as recommended by the legislative audit. Earlier in the year, a legislative audit was released concluding that further legislative action was needed to solve conflict of interest issues of the commissioners.
6. It grandfathers certain physical aspects of resort community licensee facilities under construction prior to the effective date of the 2009 act.
7. It allows hotels to provide room service of alcoholic beverages as single drinks.
8. It requires alcoholic beverage server training to be done in person and not online.
Other changes are being drafted and negotiated among the various stakeholders of alcohol policy and will become available as they are completed. These changes represent less regulation while preserving the four foundational principles of alcohol policy (listed above).
I would love to hear your thoughtful feedback.