Illustration: Sean Hennefer
During the last legislative session, Sen. Valentine (R-Orem) introduced Senate Bill 314. This bill proposed several changes to Utah’s already convoluted liquor laws and was objected to by the Downtown Alliance, the Utah Hospitality Association and written without consulting the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It passed almost unanimously in the Senate and was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert. Because legalese is not most people’s first language and some of the changes were very subtle, SLUG thought we should do a quick rundown of SB 314’s effects.
One of the changes most difficult to understand regards liquor licenses for clubs and taverns. The new change alters how the licenses are issued, making it a lot more dependent on population. Despite Utah’s increased population during the last census, the state has actually issued too many licenses. No new club licenses (allowing bars to serve liquor without also serving food) will be permitted until the population grows. To mitigate this issue with the appearance of a concession to businesses, the law did allow for the issuing of new tavern licenses (which only serve low-point beer) and restaurant liquor licenses.
Several other minor changes went into effect, including the “brunch law.” Currently, low-point beer can be served starting at 10 a.m. and wine, liquor and strong beer can be ordered starting at noon. When SB 314 goes into effect, all alcohol will be available starting at 11:30 a.m. There is also what many would consider a big “fuck you” to the Utah Brewer’s Cooperative, makers of the Squatters and Wasatch beer brands. For the last year, we’ve all been enjoying the five-liter “Little Chubby” kegs of IPA and golden ale available for purchase at the co-op’s Beer Store and several state liquor stores. SB#314 bans the sale of any alcohol in units larger than two liters and grants the co-op until October 1 to get rid of their stock.
One particularly annoying change in SB#314 was clearly targeted at last summer’s City Weekly-hosted beer fest. The alteration changes the rules so that instead of paying for admission and receiving unlimited beer samples (which is how most beer festivals in other states occur), you must now buy tokens for each individual sample.
The law also increases the allotment of officers for DUI enforcement based on population and also increases funding.
Now I’ve saved the worst for last: Say goodbye to drink specials, ’cause SB#314 outlaws them. These specials provide a valuable source of income for the hospitality industry. Without such incentives, the nightlife of downtown and other districts may suffer and businesses may close. As with the other changes mentioned above, this will go into effect July 1. If you’re interested, sign the online petition to repeal SB 314 at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/repeal-sb314-liquor-law-changes/.