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Sarah Dallof reportingTwo weeks ago an alcohol beverage commissioner's comments stirred a bit of a controversy. Bobbie Coray was quoted as saying she wants to cover up bottles of booze in restaurants. That comment, meant as a joke, has been taken so seriously she's gotten death threats.
The commission was talking about Utah's drinking laws; there are some that Utah's restaurants deal with that you won't find anywhere else in the country. Coray says she was sarcastically trying to point out how awkward one law is, when she said booze should be better hidden from view.
Today was a good day online for Bobbie Coray, but last week, not-so-good e-mails began pouring in -- some rude, one flat-out frightening. One e-mail read, "I hope you die slowly, painfully and alone."
Coray says it took reading a few to figure out what was going on, that all the e-mails centered around something she said at her monthly Alcohol Beverage Control meeting.
"I actually said we should get rid of Utah's quirky laws, and one of them is the glass curtain that exists," she explains. But it was the way she talked about the glass curtain, the partition that Utah law requires to separate booze, bartenders and patrons in restaurants, that got her into trouble.
"Clear glass doesn't do very much good. That was a joke," she said.
Coray says one local newspaper got it right, reporting she wanted to review the glass curtain law and its effectiveness. The other, she says, got it wrong, implying she wanted booze kept out of view completely, fueling criticism that she was doing the bidding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She says it's all a misunderstanding.
"I've been misquoted and I've said dumb things before and had to say, ‘Well, I said that,' but to be so mischaracterized was hurtful," she said.
Since the original articles, Coray has read letters to the editor -- two or three a day -- calling her ignorant and arrogant. Coray -- a Democrat who served in the State Legislature and once ran for Congress -- also has written her own letter to the editor, trying to clarify her viewpoint. She also responds to every e-mail she receives on the articles. So far there have been more than 200, some supportive, others critical.
Coray says, "Like the famous admiral said, ‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.'"
After years of public service, Coray says she realizes there are still lessons to be learned. If she had it to do all over again she says, "I wouldn't joke, because I found out the press doesn't have a sense of humor."
Another law Coray says she'd like to see gone is the one that closes liquor stores and stops restaurants from serving mixed drinks during elections. She's not alone; a state senator is also trying to get that thrown out.