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Liquor stores: Banning phone listings, stores won't stop abuse

Published December 27, 2006 12:00 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The state liquor monopoly has never placed customer service at the top of its priority list. So perhaps it should not be a surprise that listing a state liquor store in the Yellow Pages is illegal. Or that Washington County, with a population of 140,000, has a single liquor store, and attempts to build a second one have been thwarted by public complaints.

That's life in Utah, where the founding religion preaches that consumption of alcohol is a sin and where the goal of public policy is to discourage same.

Throw in the undeniable fact that alcohol abuse destroys people and families, contributes to crime and kills hundreds of people on Utah's highways every year, and you end up with Utah's Byzantine liquor laws.

Even in that context, last week's meeting of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission seemed right out of the Twilight Zone.

Commissioners discussed that it is unlawful for liquor officials to list telephone numbers and addresses of state liquor stores in the Yellow Pages, because that would be illegal advertising. Such advertising is banned because it might promote drinking.

As a result, consumers trying to find a store must somehow divine that they are listed only in the state government pages under Alcoholic Beverage Control Department. Not anywhere else.

Apparently it will take an act of the Legislature to correct this. We recommend the change.

The second revelation from the meeting was that people in St. George raised enough opposition to a new liquor store on St. George Boulevard off I-15 that DABC officials have abandoned the project and will start over.

One opponent was Lee Caldwell, president of Dixie College, who complained that the proposed store's proximity to the college would enhance his institution's unwanted reputation as a party school.

A party school? In St. George, Utah? The Mormon Palm Springs?

He must be kidding.

Note to Mr. Caldwell: College students drive cars. They will patronize a liquor store regardless of where it is located, and if they are of legal age, they are entitled to. Education about responsible drinking - education is your specialty, right? - is the best antidote to alcohol abuse.

Inconveniencing all drinkers in Washington County is not.