The Senate Site Proposed changes to Utah’s alcohol policy

Proposed changes to Utah’s alcohol policy

Posted in 2011, Featured on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 at 6:02 PM 12 Comments

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.

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12 Comments to “Proposed changes to Utah’s alcohol policy”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Utah State Senate, utahpolitics. utahpolitics said: RT @utahsenate: Sen. Valentine’s proposed changes to Utah’s alcohol policy #utpol […]

  2. Tyler Riggs says:

    For the most part, this all makes sense. I do not, however, see the logic in having a cap on liquor licenses for restaurants. Ask any law enforcement officer in the state whether drinking at restaurants poses a DUI or a public safety risk, and they will unanimously tell you no, restaurants do not.

    To have a cap on liquor licenses for restaurants is essentially putting a cap on new restaurants coming to Utah. Is this pro-business? Is this limited government? When it is abundantly clear that people are not “getting drunk” at restaurants, why is the state perpetuating anti-business policy in this realm?

    On the flip side, Utah should continue to find ways to strengthen the penalty side of alcohol laws. If Utah is going to walk the talk on alcohol policy, it must have the strongest DUI penalties in the nation. If Utah’s DUI penalties are the toughest right now, then we need to make them tougher. Specifically, we must get to the point where on a second DUI conviction, an individual loses the privilege to operate a motor vehicle forever. That is where the focus on alcohol policy changes should be focused. Let us allow businesses to operate freely, and allow individuals to make decisions commensurate with preserving their individual liberty. Let’s stop with laws the simply give the impression that we are regulating alcohol, and focus on the penalties, not hurt the businesses.

    • Steve Olsen says:

      Mr. Riggs,
      In the August 22, 2009 Daily Herald, Lehi police officer Bill Loveridge braggs about issuing DUI’s to teenagers for caffiene, among other things. Would you support your teenager losing his driving privilege forever as you say, for caffiene use? How about you, do you ever use caffiene? How about your friends and neighbors? My point is, anyone can be issued a DUI at any time by any police officer on their suspicion alone with no evidence whatsoever. Police officers are under pressure to write DUI’s, and they are not easy to come by these days. At the time you get your DUI, your license will be confiscated, the vehicle you are driving will be impounded whether it’s yours or not, and you will incurr impound fees, towing fees, DMV fees and attorney fees that total several thousand dollars. You may lose your job depending on what you do, and therefore the way you pay your mortgage and support your family. You will pay these costs even if you don’t use alchohol or WHETHER YOU ARE FOUND GUILTY OR NOT! The DUI citation in Utah has become a witch hunt geared toward making money and not protecting the public. DUI in Utah is big business for the state and attorneys, and doesn’t neccessarily have anything to do with alchohol use. The chronic ALCHOHOL impaired driver should be put away, not having a license won’t stop them, haven’t you heard? By the way, I have never been arrested or charged with any crime, and I havent had any type of traffic citation for over 30 years.

  3. Bryan Dial says:

    I think that you should work on removing silly things that hurt business’ like the walls to prevent people from seeing bottles. These kind of moves are juvenile and serve no purpose except to place a larger burden on people who would like to start businesses.
    *I agree with the previous poster as well that having a limit on liquor licenses for restaurants is strongly anti-business. ESPECIALLY in a state that has such a focus on tourism.

  4. Jesse Harris says:

    I agree with Tyler. Availability of alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean increased consumption, though we don’t want to turn into a Nevada. (We can see just how well that’s working out for them.) Most people who choose to drink do so responsibly. If there’s a problem with irresponsible drinking, there’s likely some other factor going on (domestic problems, genetics, mental health, etc.) and we should address that root cause.

    Personally, I’d like to see the state extricate itself from alcohol policy as much as possible and turn that responsibility over to cities and counties. I think it would result in solutions much more responsive to local needs and allow for small-scale experimentation with new policies to see what works well. The bad ideas will be swept away and the good ideas will catch on.

  5. Thank you Senator Valentine, for giving us the opportunity to comment on this issue.

    The Utah Republican Party Platform says this regarding Government Regulation:

    “We recognize that government regulation can be a major impediment to productivity and to competition. We must rely more on market forces and less on government.”

    Utah’s choke-hold on liquor licenses is anticompetitive and an unnecessary infringement by Utah’s government on the free market.

    How does a change affect public safety including DUIs?
    Liquor licenses don’t drive drunk.

    How does a change affect consumption by Minors?
    Liquor licenses don’t serve minors.

    How does a change affect over-consumption?
    Liquor licenses don’t decide how much is too much.

    If we look back to the private club debates in 2008-2009, we can see that every doomsday prediction made by Art Brown (Utah chapter of MADD) in relation to these questions was wrong. They were so far off the mark that Mr. Brown should no longer be considered a reliable voice in the debate.

    Let’s modify the laws to support our vibrant and growing hospitality industry. Let free-market forces help guide your decisions. Meet the demand! Less government and fewer restrictions on Utah’s businesses and citizens is always the best move.

  6. Bryan Mena says:

    I am an entreprenuer who is trying to open buissines in a community of 1800 residents. We currently have one liquor store and no drinking establishments. The problem I have with current laws is the quota system does not specify location as per capita, so the small communities off the beaten path have a large disability competing with bigger buisiness,cities, resort communities,etc. I am wanting a club licence.I think it is a burden of saftey and economy for small comunities.One burden in peticular is the aplication process that requires me to be bonded and insured, this would not be a problem if I were able to open but just to be on the waiting list I need to be insured.another burden is residents traveling 30+ miles to a social club where there is no taxi service.Please contact me regarding this situation.

  7. Dan Dabney says:

    I just moved to Iraq, I have my children with me. My children are not permitted to play with the other children, because the do not read the “Koran”. There is no alcohol,sex magazines, or life other than what is permitted by the Islamic gov’t.

    Oh wait a minute, I’m so sorry……. I just moved to Utah and my children are not allowed to play with the other children, because they do not read the Book of Mormon. Now we got it.

    Utah has a strangle hold on everything because of a deep rooted, misguided, Radical Religion, that is very much like the Islam religion. Utah says they will stay in a balanced budget. Easy to do when your taxing everything more than once. Let’s take alcohol,the State is the only supplier, so you charge twice what other states are charging……tax, then you add tax.

    Somehow I think a lawsuit should be brought against the state, to break this monopoly…what do you think, persons with a brain?

    Own an old car pay more for taxes and “state” emissions than a person that can afford a new car every couple years. This thanks to a Mormon car dealer in SLC for that one.

    The Cops in this state are more like mindless pit bulls, than protectors of justice. Can you say “Quota”……. don’t deny it. Or it’ll be off with your head or a public stoning, better yet public euthanasia

    So just like all the Islamic countries, this state with be a Hellhole of injustice, stupidity, and profiteering of the “Religious Elite” as long as this remains under the Church’s control.
    While we are at it let’s change the Pledge of Allegiance to “One Nation under Joseph”. Also on the dollar bill… got it…..In “Joseph We Trust”!

    • Drue Somerville says:

      Isn’t Utah wonderful, If it was as controlled as Mr. Dabney thinks it is it wouldn’t be.
      That same church that is controlling everything that Mr. Dabney (seems?) to want to do, made it possible for him to come here and complain about it many years before he got here. If you don’t like the laws, work calmly and responsibly within the system, if that doesn’t get things changed perhaps some rethinking about what is wanted is in order.

  8. Bev F says:

    Please read the following:

    “American Council for Drug Education’s


    “Dealing with drunkenness and with alcohol-related accidents, crime, violence, and disturbances consumes more resources than any other aspect of police operations, while the health consequences of alcohol abuse add enormously to national health care costs. Illegal drugs can be more rapidly addicting than alcohol and may well have a more powerful effect on human behavior, but the high level of alcohol consumption, which is many times greater than the level of illegal drug use, makes it one of America’s most serious drug problems.”

    “When a person consumes alcohol, the drug acts on nerve cells deep in the brain. Alcohol initially serves as a stimulant, then induces feelings of relaxation and reduced anxiety. Consumption of two or three drinks in an hour can impair judgment, lower inhibitions, and induce mild euphoria. Five drinks consumed in two hours may raise the blood alcohol level to 0.10 percent, high enough to be considered legally intoxicated in every state. Once a drinker stops drinking, his or her blood alcohol level decreases by about 0.01 percent per hour.”

    “The behavior of abusers and the consequences of that behavior are better indicators of alcoholism than how often or how much a person may drink.”

    Is this REALLY what we want for this great state? No one is forcing drinkers to live in Utah. They have 49 other states to choose from. Those of us who don’t choose to drink also have rights. My grandpa’s rights were taken away when he was hit by a drunk driver who by the way survived the crash that ultimately killed two people. I know a drinker who, even after he/she has had too many drinks, still thinks he/she could drive safely. As the article says, alcohol impairs judgment… even just two or three drinks.

    Thank you for reading this. I hope it helps us all make more informed decisions and comments.

  9. […] Media Availability today. Though he has discussed his alcoholic beverage licensing changes in concept, the bill is now drafted and was read in for the first time this morning. The changes proposed deal […]

  10. Clint says:

    I believe that the state government should work to have less regulation and let market forces, supply and demand, to determine the alcohol that can be served in Utah. It’s inconsistent with every other Republican argument, and even hypocritical to have heavy regulation of this industry when arguing against it in every other instance. I believe the focus should be less on the alcohol consumption itself, 99% of all alcohol drinkers do so responsibly, and more directly on the problems that you are trying to address.
    How does a change affect public safety including DUIs? Getting away from limiting alcohol consumption/rules doesn’t impact our safety. We should focus on the DUI laws and make the penalties tougher.

    How does a change affect consumption by Minors? make the penalties for minors using alcohol stronger, not limiting everyone else’s free right to buy and drink alcohol.

    Enforcement? All of the detailed regulations are so difficult to enforce. Focusing on the real issues of DUIs and minor consumption and making those penalties higher would be easier to enforce, too.

    Please focus on the real issues and get out of the business of regulating the average citizen’s alcohol consumption. Let’s get more in line with the rest of the country and see our tourism dollars soar.

    Thank you.

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