Utah's Fruitless New Liquor Law
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Utah lawmakers have been at it again. The state already has some of the strangest and strictest liquor sales laws in the country, but apparently legislators still felt that there was some tinkering to be done.
Now Utah has become the first state to ban some fruity alcoholic drink sales.
USA Today reported that the state's supply of flavored malt beverages will likely be exhausted within several weeks as manufacturers decide whether or not to comply with the new labeling rules in Utah. The new labels would be required to make it clear that the products contain alcohol.
Apparently lawmakers felt that it is not enough that these products are sold only to adults of legal drinking age, stored in beer coolers with other alcoholic beverages and already contain labeling indicating their alcohol content. Thus the new law was written to make sure everyone completely understands that these alcoholic beverages do, in fact, contain alcohol.
Utah has a large Mormon population. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counsels members not to consume alcohol. Somewhere along the line, the separation of church and state has gotten blurred and the church is now highly influential among state legislators in Utah regarding alcohol policies.
While most liquor laws aim in some way to curb DUI and save lives on the highways, Utah lawmakers seem to rarely have that goal in mind when they begin debating state alcohol policies. As far as end results are concerned, this new law seems fruitless on many levels.
As of October 8, Utah will be the only state to ban the sale of fruity alcoholic beverages in grocery stores and convenience stores. This, lawmakers say, is an effort to keep these drinks away from minors. These types of beverages must also come with state-approved labels on the front of the product that are to contain CAPITAL letters and bold font to advise consumers - who may not be able to read smaller print on the back - that the drinks contain alcohol and at what percentage.
Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control spokeswoman Sharon Mackay says that the state's supply of these fruity malt beverages with regular labeling will be exhausted within a few weeks and no new labels have been approved yet.
Flavored malt beverages are already sold in liquor stores in Utah, but these drinks have higher alcohol content than what has been allowed in grocery and convenience stores. These drinks are sold with the same labels that are found across the country.
Some malt beverage manufacturers have already decided that it's not worth the effort to design and produce new labels to cater specifically to Utah's fruity liquor laws.
Zsoka McDonald, spokeswoman for Diageo, one of the world's largest multinational beer, wine and spirits firms, has said that it is simply not cost effective for the company to produce new labels just to satisfy Utah's new requirements.
McDonald said, "Thanks to the Legislature, Smirnoff Ice is no longer available in Utah."
McKay says that the department won't reorder any of the flavored malt beverages that it currently has in stock until the manufacturers comply with the new labeling requirements. This standoff could mean that many of the drinks that are now available in Utah won't be after the supplies run out.
Utah's Republican Governor Jon Huntsman said that banning products like Smirnoff Ice, Seagram's Fuzzy Navel and Zima from grocery stores would hurt the state's image, but he agreed to the new labeling requirements in exchange for legislators increasing the amount of liquor allowed in shots and standard cocktails to the usual amount of 1.5 ounces, rather than the 1 ounce that the state used to allow.