Utah legislators would be doing the state's economy a favor by passing a proposed bill that would allow restaurant chains to hold a single "master" liquor license for all their locations in the state, rather than requiring a permit for each restaurant.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, is sponsoring the legislation. Valentine has long been a proponent of reforming Utah's antiquated liquor laws, and this bill is certainly a step in that direction.
As the law stands, some restaurant chains are bypassing Utah when looking for places to open new eateries. Liquor licenses are granted based on population, and the number is far too low to encourage this type of economic growth.
Owners of restaurants such as Cheesecake Factory, which opened this year in City Creek Center, would have to get in line for another license if they wanted to open another outlet.
That is poor policy in a state that prides itself on being business-friendly. The Legislature is so unfriendly to liquor that it is not acting in the state's best interests.
Restaurants are not only good for their customers Utah residents and our valued visitors but they increase the tax base and provide needed jobs, especially for college students and other young residents who need good jobs but do not yet have the experience or skills needed for more technical careers.
Valentine's proposal would give chains that want to expand or come to Utah more flexibility in obtaining liquor permits, which have become far too scarce to meet the demand throughout the state.
Legislation created 90 additional restaurant licenses in July, but that is hardly enough. Some developers say that without further legislative action, all available licenses could be taken by next spring. Without more licenses, restaurant chains will not build here.
That is counter to Gov. Gary Herbert's refrain that he makes every decision based on how it would affect economic growth. Herbert won re-election on that mantra just weeks ago. And legislators repeat it, claiming to be champions of the free market and reducing government intervention that discourages business growth.
The Legislature has made some positive changes in its liquor policies, but much more is needed to bring the Beehive State into the 21st century. More restaurants serving liquor will not increase drunk driving or underage drinking. But it could give Utah a much-needed boost to help the state continue its emergence from the Great Recession.
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