Liquor boosts economy

By By Jonathan Deesing

By Jonathan Deesing

You don’t have to live in Utah very long to figure out that this state is no friend to alcohol. Indeed, we display our arcane and outdated liquor laws proudly to the rest of the country. The “Zion Curtain,” the shot-and-a-half rule, and our measly 41 liquor stores were all championed by members of Congress, predominantly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have likely never had a drink in their lives.

But try as they might to limit the sins of their neighbors, these people don’t seem to be effectively quelling the drinking of Utah’s gentile population.

In its annual report released last week, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control found that this year, alcohol consumption and sales increased dramatically, following a recent trend over the last few years.

Utahns consumed almost 300,000 more gallons of alcohol than in 2008, and spent nearly $500,000 more. Apparently, people who enjoy a glass of cognac are willing to jump through all the hoops necessary to satiate themselves.

So why do we keep insisting on maintaining these hoops? If alcohol sales are increasing, we should be taking advantage of it, not shunning it.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a member of the LDS Church, realized this better than most. His efforts to reform drinking laws in Utah opened up opportunities for restaurants and bars that previously had little opportunity. He also realized that it is not the job of the government to regulate the “sins” of its populace.

Yes, drinking certainly has more negative aspects than positive; it would be silly to argue otherwise. However, when lawmakers’ decisions act to hurt our economy, these lawmakers must reconsider what is more important.

Supporting and allowing private liquor stores instead of the couple dozen state-run liquor stores would bring new business to Utah and bolster our economy. Large and successful chains, such as Trader Joe’s, have long avoided Utah because they would not be allowed to sell liquor in their stores.

Ultimately, the notion that more accessibility to liquor would increase alcohol-related problems is of little consequence. Utahns are consuming and spending more on liquor than ever before. Most importantly, they’re doing it regardless of all the barriers set up to prevent them from doing so. Even in a recession, when frivolous spending usually decreases, Utahns are still drinking more than 2.2 gallons of alcohol per capita a year.

The people on Capitol Hill can either fight this trend or allow Utahns to profit from it. Neither snow, rain, Mormon congressmen nor a recession will stop Utah’s heathens from drinking. Someone might as well make some money from it.

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