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Tribune Editorial: Utah liquor laws fly past peculiar and into weird

First Published      Last Updated May 22 2017 02:46 pm

Who knew the Utah Legislature was going through an existential crisis during its last session? Well, they were. Because inside the 144-page bill relating to alcohol regulation was a new requirement for bars and restaurants to post signs announcing to the world that they are … bars and restaurants.

The purpose, of course, is to protect innocent children from seeing the demon rum. As is the purpose of every draconian Utah alcohol law. But every year the Legislature takes a step forward — like loosening the ridiculous Zion Curtain requirements (with an "upgrade" to the Zion Moat) — it takes two steps back.




These signs, for instance. The Legislature eliminated the distinction between a dining club and a social club and now require all establishments to choose whether they are a restaurant or a bar, and post a sign that reads "This is a restaurant," or "This is a bar."

Yes, it's fairly painless. But it invites the typical ridicule and scorn that Utah's liquor laws always invite. Case in point: Idaho. The American Beverage Institute, a national restaurant association, has paid for a full-page advertisement in the Idaho Statesman newspaper ridiculing Utah's liquor laws and warning people to stay away.

"Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation."

Specifically, the ad warns people about Utah's recent change in its legal limit for driving while intoxicated from 0.08 to 0.05 blood alcohol content (BAC). (We've already argued the shortcomings of that change.) Utah now has the strictest DUI limit in the nation. When this legislation passed there were whispers that Gov. Gary Herbert may veto it to protect the state's image and tourism industry. He eventually signed it.

It is no secret that a large percentage of Utah's population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — Mormons — with a supermajority in the Legislature. Mormons are proud of being a "peculiar people," and Mormons don't drink. Yet the Legislature's insistence on extending this peculiarity to the state's alcohol laws is maddening. And ironically, the state alcohol monopoly requires that the government itself, through state employees, promote, and profit off, citizens consuming alcohol.

Being a peculiar people does not actually require being weird. Nor does it require making neighbors and visitors feel like they are weird. Or unwelcome.

People know that a restaurant is a restaurant, and a bar is a bar, without the government telling them. It's time to privatize liquor in Utah so the Legislature can focus on other peculiar goals, like designating commemorative guns.

 

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