Utah Lawmakers Consider Liquor Law
By Gerri L. Elder
Senate Republicans in Utah who are opposed to changing the
state's odd and unusual liquor laws have taken the time to explain their stance
on the issue.
Associated Press reported that Senate President John Valentine
explained in a blog
post on the Senate majority's Web site the state's quirky but strict liquor
laws are responsible for less underage drinking and DUIs. He said in the post
that if the state legislature changes Utah's laws, DUI fatalities in the state
could increase. Valentine did not provide statistics or details with this
Valentine noted that the state's liquor laws are antiquated
and make Utah look quirky, but insists that the laws are extremely beneficial
in keeping underage drinking at a minimum and DUI rates low. His post quoted federal statistics indicating that at 17 percent,
Utah has the lowest percentage of traffic fatalities involving alcohol in the
country. However, eight other states and
Washington D.C. have a lower number of overall fatalities involving alcohol.
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman joins the state's annual $6 billion
tourism industry in pushing for the elimination of legal requirements that patrons
pay a fee and fill out an application to enter bars. No other state in the
country has such requirements.
Bar owners and patrons say that the odd liquor laws in Utah
do not prevent underage drinking and DUI. Bar owners say that they spend so
much time completing paperwork associated with the required memberships, that
checking to make sure that members are at least 21 years old becomes secondary.
The membership requirement sets bars in Utah apart from other bars across the
Valentine's blog post seemed to indicate Republicans may be
open to adjusting the state's liquor laws, but only if they believe that it
would not cause more people to drink and drive. Republicans control both the House and Senate
in Utah. He said that he was certain that lawmakers could work out responsible
Until 1996, it was illegal in Utah to display beer
advertisements, even on menus and neon signs in bar windows. The state has been
so resistant to changing alcohol laws that a federal court had to step in
during 2001 to allow the advertising of alcohol products.