New equipment for private clubs goes too far

By By John Hannon

By John Hannon

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said he supports completely ridding Utah of its private club laws in order to boost tourism and normalize state liquor laws. “Finally,” you might think, “an effective concession being made toward normal.”

Not so fast. The original idea was to have a clean break from the private club laws. However, Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups intends to institutionalize a system that would force all bars and clubs to purchase electronic equipment designed to validate the authenticity of driver’s licenses and to ensure legal drinking age. Effectively eliminating most underage drinking, this system also has the possibility of being utilized to collect data regarding patrons’ drinking habits. Another add-on suggested by members of the Senate was that this information could then be fed into a statewide database that would be available for law enforcement to access. To many, and certainly to me, this idea seems wildly intrusive and unnecessary.

Dave Morris, owner of Piper Down Pub and board member of the Utah Hospitality Association, said he’s worried that the implementation of something so extreme could only do harm to his establishment and businesses like it.

“I wouldn’t go to a bar if I knew that my license was going to be scanned and tracked,” Morris said. “It’s a great way to push all bars and clubs out of the state.”

What started as a piece of legislation designed to help the private club cause now appears to be imposing more restrictions than before. Moreover, if any version of the electronic ID scanner plan passes, these clubs would be forced to purchase the scanners on their own. In a time of great economic uncertainty, something feels very wrong about forcing small businesses to purchase equipment with an $800 price tag.

Last week, legislation that the majority of Utahns favored, a nonintrusive Common Ground Initiative bill, got shot down. This is just one example of how representatives are out of touch with the opinions of their constituency. Contact your representative and explain that the elimination of the private club laws8212;minus all the 1984 add-ons8212;is important to you. You can find your representatives by visiting and entering your mailing address at

[email protected]

John Hannon

Phil Cannon