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It’s a safe bet: Utah’s liquor store employees will be getting raises

Bill giving the DABC $4.3 million to boost pay clears the Legislature, and the governor is expected to sign off.

(Tribune file photo) An employee at the state liquor store in Cottonwood Heights sorts through a large shipment of spirits. A bill that would give liquor store employee raises awaits the governor's signature.

A bill that would boost the hourly wages at Utah’s state-run liquor stores — and ensure that employee pay keeps pace in the future — cleared the House on Thursday and now awaits the governor’s expected signature.

SB137 gives the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control an additional $4.3 million to bring salaries for its retail clerks, warehouse workers, store managers and assistant managers up to market standards.

The bill, which was previously passed by the Senate, would make store wages part of the liquor agency’s “cost of doing business,” according to House sponsor Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville. That means hourly pay would no longer be subject each year to the whims of conservative lawmakers, many of whom abstain from drinking alcohol for religious reasons.

Gov. Spencer Cox has been supportive of the wage hike, after an agency review showed turnover rates at the DABC exceeded 140% for the agency’s part-time workforce, and 109% for all employees — the worst among all state agencies.

It is too early to say how much more hourly employees could expect to see in their paychecks. But for some positions, wages would have to increase more than $2 an hour to meet the market average, DABC estimates have shown.

Currently, the starting salary for a full-time clerk at most of Utah’s state-run liquor stores is $11.32 an hour — several dollars below the average pay at most retail outlets. The wages are even worse for part-time employees, who begin at $9.94 an hour.

Other employers hiring for similar roles in retail, warehousing and distribution pay much higher wages and have less stringent hiring practices. Under state law, DABC employees must be 21 or older and pass a background check.

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