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LDS Church: Don’t change Utah’s liquor laws
Alcohol » Days before the Legislature opens, an apostle says status quo ensures balance.

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Scott Beck, CEO of Visit Salt Lake, said he agrees with the church that Utah’s quality of life should be celebrated.

"But we’re not asking for a loosening of liquor laws," he said. "We’re asking for a normalization. A one-size-fits-all no longer works in Utah."

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To read the LDS Church’s statement on Utah’s alcohol laws and view a video of apostle D. Todd Christofferson discussing those rules, go to http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/alcohol-laws-utah.

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The "intent to dine" requirement, for example, is confusing to patrons and Utah is the only state with such an edict, he said. It’s one area where the laws could be normalized.

Melva Sine, president of the Utah Restaurant Association, said her group respects the church’s view, but "the majority of Utahns really feel like some of our liquor laws need to be updated and improved, especially on how we come across as being hospitable."

She said getting rid of the Zion Curtain wouldn’t change consumption in the state, but would enhance Utah’s image.

"We need to treat our customers in a hospitable way and treat adults as adults want to be treated," Sine said. "They have the right and responsibility to weigh in as we all do, and all views need to be considered when we address issues that impact the state of Utah."

Ken Bullock, executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, acknowledges the rarity of the church taking such a public stand on a policy issue and says it’s fine for the church to say the current laws are working, but "you have to ask who it’s working for?"

"If it’s working for the LDS Church, then, yes, obviously they feel that way, but the communities feel differently," said Bullock. Cities and towns are looking for changes to the Zion Curtain, he said, and see no purpose to hiding drink preparation at restaurants behind a wall.

More could be done on the enforcement and education end to keep liquor out of the hands of minors, he said, but policy discussions on other issues still need to take place.

Steve Barth, a former legislator and current lobbyist for hospitality interests, said the state should be proud that it’s doing a good job in minimizing the negative impacts of alcohol.

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"But there are things that rise up and need to be fixed because it’s good public policy for both sides," he said. "It’s a long session and there will be lots of talks."


Twitter: @RobertGehrke

Reporter Kathy Stephenson contributed to this story.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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