Utah Lawmakers Consider Liquor Law Changes

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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.

The 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 opinion.

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 country.

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 solutions.

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.


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