Liquor law change is valid

By By Liz Carlston

By Liz Carlston

In Utah, people over the age of 21 can buy liquor at the state-run liquor store or a private club and they can buy beer at most grocery stores. In California and most states all over the country, people can buy liquor not only at clubs, but also at grocery stores and restaurants. For years, Utah has maintained some of the nation’s most stringent and inane liquor legislation. Finally, these unrealistic and arcane rules will change.

The Utah Legislature has negotiated a new set of liquor laws that will do away with the private club law, which requires temporary memberships for entry. Instead, a scanner will be installed to verify the authenticity of a driver’s license and now allows for restaurants and other establishments to sell liquor without a temporary membership.

At the urging of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., these changes will be made to secure Utah’s economic growth.

In a report by the Real Estate Professionals for Economic Growth, 40 companies that relocated to Utah or expanded in the state discovered that the perceptions of Utah’s liquor laws were an obstacle to business and growth within the state. Eating out and drinking with business associates are common practices that are critical to building relationships and partnerships within corporate America. Stringent liquor laws have not only caused awkwardness for individual businesses, but also for Utah’s tourism industry, considering that those from out of state are accustomed to getting a drink without paying a membership fee.

The late Larry Miller, who owned the Utah Jazz, allowed the sale of beer at the EnergySolutions Arena because fans wanted the product. Although it doesn’t conflict with Utah’s liquor laws, it still pushes the envelope for conservative-minded individuals.

“With alcohol, that’s a choice that, up to a point, only affects the person who is drinking,” Miller said in a 2003 interview. “I don’t think I’m smart enough to be the censor for the whole community. I do have some element of that censorship whether I like it or not. With alcohol, there is a broad enough spectrum in the community who choose to use it that we adopt certain policies. I can’t say that half of our community can’t drink8212;it’s not my role.”

The new progressive liquor legislation is a breath of fresh air and long overdue. Finally, popular grocery outlets such as Trader Joe’s, which makes substantial profits from liquor sales, will be able to come to Utah. Loosening restraints on tourism and business will be welcome during the economic recession.

It should not be left up to the government to be the social conscience of its citizens.

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Liz Carlston