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Senate passes bill to change Utah liquor laws

The Utah Senate passed a bill that would change liquor and beer service time, increase the number of restaurant liquor licenses and eliminate mini-kegs in Utah liquor stores, amongst a variety of other changes.

Senate Bill 314, which cleared the Senate on Friday afternoon, is designed to make people eat when they consume alcohol, said the bill sponsor, Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem. Utah has one of the fastest-growing restaurant industries in the nation, according to the Utah Restaurant Association. The bill would add 15 new full-liquor service licenses and 25 beer and wine licenses. The bill would also allow an unlimited amount of beer-only licenses for restaurants that only want to serve beer. No additional licenses would be given for bars or clubs in the new bill. However, it makes liquor licenses transferable, so when a bar or tavern is purchased, the liquor license could be included with the purchase.

Melva Sine, Utah Restaurant Association president, said she had issues with the quota system and Utah still needs more than just 40 new licenses.

“We’re still concerned with the fact that we have only 40 licenses,” Sine said. “Those licenses will go fairly quickly and this is an issue that we’re consistently addressing.”

The bill would also move all restaurant liquor and beer service to 11:30 a.m. The current system allows for beer service at 10:00 a.m. and liquor service at noon.

“The bill would make uniform hours for all restaurants,” Valentine said.

However, taverns and social clubs would still be able to serve drinks starting at 10:00 a.m. The change in starting time for beer and liquor service will only affect restaurants.

In addition to making changes to the laws concerning restaurants, the proposal would create a new reception center license.  Valentine said wedding reception centers do not have enough oversight and need to be regulated.

“The problem we have right now with the reception center license is … the father of the bride, or the father of the groom brings in all the alcohol, sets it out and there is no service. There is no control of underage drinking. There is no control of over drinking,” Valentine said. “So we have this big hole in our control of alcohol consumption in these reception centers.”

People would no longer be able to bring their own alcohol to reception centers for events such as weddings. Instead, each reception center would have to receive a permit and distribute the alcohol.

The proposed legislation also bans mini-kegs, or “Chubbies.” Beer could not be sold in containers larger than 2 liters. Currently, some local breweries have high-content alcohol mini-kegs for sale in Utah liquor stores. The mini-kegs hold 5 liters.

The bill, which is 174 pages long, also has many other stipulations, some of which include the following:

  • Drinks can be purchased by the glass in hotels from room service.
  • The bill prohibits events from selling or furnishing an indefinite or unlimited number of alcoholic drinks for a fixed price. This essentially kills the current functioning of the City Weekly Beer Fest.
  • Gives the governor the responsibility of appointing the chair of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
  • Increases the number of officers to enforce drunken driving laws.

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