Provo lifts restrictions on Sunday beer sales

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PROVO — Making a Sunday afternoon beer run no longer means having to drive to Lehi or Springville.

Calling it an issue of fairness and not an economic decision, the Provo City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to allow beer to be sold on Sundays at grocery and convenience stores.

Provo businesses with beer and liquor licenses already have been allowed to sell beer on Sundays.

"I think we as a city need to make sure we are fair to everyone, no matter what their beliefs are," Councilman Rick Healey said. "It's very important that we understand that there are many people who live here who don't believe the same way the majority religion does."

Provo is different, and that's a good thing.

–Jenny Lawton

According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, roughly 80 percent of Provo residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which discourages its members from drinking alcohol.

Most of the dozen or so residents who spoke during Tuesday night's meeting did so against allowing Sunday beer sales, saying it goes against values of the community.

"Provo is different, and that's a good thing," said Jenny Lawton, an El Salvador native who has made Provo her home. "I want Provo to still be the Provo I love, the Provo I moved here for."

Others, including perennial City Council candidate Howard Stone, called prohibiting Sunday beer sales a "spiritual law" that shouldn't be broken for additional sales tax revenue.

"We are not in Rome where we do as the Romans do," Stone said. "We are in Provo, Utah, which was founded on great values."

Cynthia Dayton was the lone member of the council to vote against amending the ordinance, saying she believes the majority of Provo residents don't want beer to be sold on Sundays.

Her colleagues on the council, however, said comments from their constituents through phone calls and email have overwhelmingly supported the change.

We're making a lot of moral judgments that I'm not sure are ours to make.

–BJ Cluff

Councilwoman Midge Johnson estimated that those she talked to about the proposed change favored allowing Sunday beer sales 10 to 1.

"They want (Provo) to be more welcoming and open to the diverse community coming in," Johnson said.

BJ Cluff, one of a handful of residents who spoke in favor of the change, said prohibiting beers sales on Sunday is "exclusionary" to those who believe differently from their Mormon neighbors.

"This is a community that includes lots of different types of people," Cluff said. "If we want to be exclusionary, I'm not sure this is a place I want to be. ... We're making a lot of moral judgments that I'm not sure are ours to make."

Beer sales

A handful of Utah County cities — including American Fork, Mapleton and Orem — continue to prohibit the sale of beer on Sundays. Others, such as Eagle Mountain, Lehi, Saratoga Springs and Spanish Fork, don't have time or day restrictions on beer sales at grocery and convenience stores.

Beer sales still will be restricted between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. in Provo, putting Utah's third-largest city's beer laws in line with Salt Lake City, West Valley City and several other cities. In Utah County, Pleasant Grove also has the 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. restriction on beer sales; Springville's restrictions run from midnight to 6 a.m.

City leaders have been talking about lifting the Sunday beer sales restriction for a little more than a month, sparked by an email from Lois Kelson, a business owner concerned about losing sales to neighboring cities that sell beer on Sundays.

Kelson owns a chain of convenience stores throughout Utah County, including two in Provo.

"This is about serving the people who live here," she said during Tuesday night's meeting. "Some people want to buy beer on Sundays. Not everybody believes the same way."

Councilman Sterling Beck noted that not all Provo residents consider Sunday to be "the sabbath day."

"I have many friends of the Jewish faith, and they would never make a law that would prevent me from purchasing ham on Saturday," Beck said.

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Act does not place time limits on beer sales for businesses where beer is sold but consumed elsewhere.

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