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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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Editorials: Booze laws stagger around the country ...

Above: Chumbawamba. The one-hit wonder band breaks up.

- Liquor licenses: Loosen population quotas - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

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The thirst for Utah liquor licenses continues to grow. The Legislature temporarily relieved the shortage of restaurant licenses in the recent special session, but the state’s economy demands a permanent solution. The answer is to adjust the population quotas in the law to allow a steady stream of more licenses.

If the Legislature refuses to do that, it will continue to bang its head on an artificial ceiling on licenses that discourages new restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality industry from opening shop in the Beehive State.

Powerful legislators, including Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, want to hold a tight rein on licenses in order to prevent overconsumption, alcohol abuse and drunken driving. They are right that alcohol abuse and particularly binge drinking are a serious public health and safety concern. The Legislature acted wisely when it included provisions for more enforcement officers in the bill that created 90 new restaurant licenses.

However, adjusting the population quota to allow more restaurant licenses would not contribute to either binge drinking or drunken driving. That’s because restaurants aren’t a big part of the problem. People don’t go to restaurants to get drunk. They go there to eat. Some will order a cocktail or glass of wine with their meal, but few patrons will get drunk during a restaurant meal. For one thing, it’s expensive. For another, the wine portions are minuscule.

The Legislature’s safety concerns should be focused elsewhere. People binge drink alone or at private parties. Sales of beer to minors at grocery and convenience stores should be one target. Officials could focus more enforcement resources there. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend more sting operations to discourage such sales. ...

Utahns carp about their goofy liquor laws all the time. But, it seems, we are far from the only ones:

- Should Oregon loosen its control of liquor sales? - Klamath Falls (Ore.) Herald and News Editorial

.. What’s wrong with the Oregon system and any similar one is that it makes the Oregon Liquor Control Commission both promoter and regulator of alcohol sales. That’s an inherent conflict of interest. There should be clear separation of such functions, rather than having them within the same agency. ...

- Liquor monopoly silences competition - Vancouver Sun Editorial

The provincial government’s bait-and-switch approach to privatizing its liquor distribution branch has led it into dangerous waters. ...

- Michigan's liquor laws should be shaken up, not stirred, report says - Detroit Free Press

... Reaction was mixed to an effort to ease liquor license laws some describe as archaic. Craft brewers and bar and restaurant owners were mostly pleased. Law enforcement groups, beer and wine wholesalers and groups that fight substance abuse were less enthusiastic. ...

- Open alcohol policy needs careful thought - Tuscaloosa News Editorial

At one time, all mixed drinks in Alabama were all poured from miniature bottles, the kind now found on airplanes. The law was intended to ensure that each drink had a uniform amount of alcohol.

But the law also created inconvenience and expense for restaurant and bar owners. The law changed, and miniatures were relegated to the purses and secret pockets of people sneaking them into football games. ...

- State has no business promoting drinking - North Andover [Mass.] Eagle-Tribune Editorial

... Why not just call the promotion "Drink Up — We Need the Money." ...

- Fine whine! Privatization goes back on shelf - Delaware County (Penn.) Daily Times Editorial

... So for now, despite polls that indicate the public wants privatization, and lip service from [Gov.] Corbett, Keystone State residents can look forward to continuing their struggle with the current labyrinth of purchasing alcohol, let along trying to explain it to visitors and those from out of state. ...

Pennsylvania, we feel your pain.

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