Out of Control Policy Blog

Prohibition slowly returning to Utah

Already with some of the nation's toughest bans on alcohol, the Utah legislature approved a ban the sale of malt liquors from any store in the state other than its state run liquor stores. Billed as an attempt to keep alcohol away from minors, the move smacks of monopolization.

A local Salt Lake City news station reports:

Utah has some of the strictest liquor laws in the country, a byproduct of its large Mormon population. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counsels members not to drink alcohol, and the church is highly influential among state lawmakers on alcohol policy.

On Wednesday, Utah will be the only state to ban the sale of fruity alcoholic drinks at grocery stores and convenience stores in an effort to keep them from minors. Those drinks also must have new state-approved labels on the front of the product that contain capitalized letters in bold type telling consumers the drinks contain alcohol and at what percentage.

So far, no new labels have been approved. Utah Department of Alcholic Beverage Control spokeswoman Sharon Mackay said the state's limited supply of those drinks will likely be gone in a few weeks.

This and other laws are hurting business in Utah, though the Salt Lake Tribute reports that lawmakers fear loosening the already tight restrictions would send the "wrong message" to young people in the state. Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty says "We can't control the weather. We can't control fuel prices or what airlines fly into the Salt Lake airport. But we can control our liquor laws." The complex rules and limitations on alcohol are hurting the state's $1 billion skiing and $6 billion tourism industries.

Restaurants, would benefit too, said Utah Restaurant Association official Hans Fuegi, who also is on Utah's tourism development board. "The Zion Curtain issue is very, very confusing," he said of several provisions--such as a ban on restaurant bartenders handing a drink over the bar to a customer--he thinks should be eliminated.

Anthony Randazzo is Director of Economic Research


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