Stores will order heavy beers early, despite one Utah lawmaker’s efforts

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, in the Utah House, Feb. 9, 2018.

Provo Republican Rep. Norm Thurston argued Monday against letting Utah’s grocery and convenience stores preorder higher-strength beers in anticipation of the state’s cap lifting from 3.2% to 4% alcohol by weight in November.

He said businesses have had ample time to prepare for the switch, and that no one would be forced to shut down over a temporary lag in the supply chain.

“This is just being pushed through by the alcohol profiteers who want a little more money,” said Thurston, who sponsored the law lowering Utah’s DUI law to outlaw driving with blood alcohol content greater than 0.05.

But his colleagues in the Utah House overwhelmingly disagreed, voting 64-2 in favor of a bill that would permit retailers to purchase and store 4% beers beginning Oct. 24, while maintaining the Nov. 1 date for sales to customers.

Bill sponsor Rep. Steve Waldrip, R-Eden, said Thurston’s characterization of the changes was “a little bit short of reality,” and that the one-week grace period would promote fairness between retailers large and small, rural and urban.

“If they all had to get the product on the same day they can begin selling the product,” Waldrip said, “then only a handful would get it first.”

The bill, heard during a special session of the Legislature, moved to the Senate, where it easily passed 25-0 with no debate.