State lawmakers, if their proposed $2.5 million in cuts hold up in the budgeting process, would force liquor-control commissioners to close up to 13 stores in Utah, costing nearly 150 mostly part-time employees their jobs.
Hours at the state's largest liquor stores would be cut be cut as well, with closings at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., rather than the current 10 p.m.
Five state stores on the proposed hit list are in Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, Orem, Provo and St. George. Each outlet rings up annual profits of at least $1 million, and their combined sales totaled more than $18.4 million in 2010.
In addition, privately run liquor stores in mostly rural areas would close in Spanish Fork, Springville, Midvale, Parowan, Gunnison, Helper, Richmond and Eureka.
Budget cuts for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, part of cost-saving efforts statewide, were generated from recommendations by legislative auditors and analysts.
Liquor-control commissioners have yet to finalize the list, but last month when the board approved closing the Salt Lake City store on April 1, commission Chairman Sam Granato cast the only no vote.
"I am against closing any profitable business, especially in today's economy," said Granato, noting that the department and its operations generate $100 million for the state annually. "It doesn't make good economic sense to close these businesses and put people out of work. We need to find better solutions because what we're doing isn't based on sound business principles."
Granato's actions he opposed closings last year, as well may be behind legislation this session that would require the chairman to be appointed by the governor with Senate approval. Fellow liquor commissioners now elect one of their own to the post.
State Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, has said that every agency must make cuts to make up for state revenue shortfalls, including the liquor department
Despite record profits, lawmakers have ordered the department to cut its budget by $1.6 million over the past two years. Legislative analysts said that this next fiscal year, it's possible to lop off nearly twice that amount.
To achieve savings last year, doors at the state's 20 largest liquor stores opened an hour later, with hours of operation at most running from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. An option this time around would be to operate stores for only eight hours a day, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or noon to 8 p.m.
Legislative analysts said that if stores were closed in areas with multiple outlets, consumers could pick up liquor at neighboring stores. But that move has been met with opposition from municipalities. Local officials have complained that boarded-up store fronts lead to urban blight and embolden criminals.
This year's proposed cuts could become effective July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, said Vickie Ashby, spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The store on Main Street in Salt Lake City, however, will close April 1 because the department could find no additional funding from the Legislature to keep it open for during the remainder of this fiscal year.
Targeted liquor stores and their 2010 sales
Salt Lake City • 1457 S. Main St., sales $3 million
South Salt Lake • 63 E. Miller Ave., sales $2.5 million
Orem • 1688 N. State St., sales $3.7 million
Provo • 166 S. Freedom Ave., sales $6 million
St. George • 929 W. Sunset St., sales $3.2 million
Privately run stores
Spanish Fork • 51 W. 100 North, sales $606,000.
Springville • 685 S. Main St., sales $790,000.
Midvale • 7598 S. Main St., sales $516,000
Parowan • 60 E. Center St., sales $305,000.
Gunnison • 95 S. Main St., sales $133,000.
Helper • 68 S. Main St., sales $196,000.
Richmond • 16 W. Main St., sales $91,000.
Eureka • 348 E. Main St., sales $82,000.
Source: Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control