No decision yet on possible return of mini bottles of alcohol

No decision yet on possible return of mini bottles of alcohol

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SALT LAKE CITY — Could mini bottles make a comeback to liquor outlets in Utah?

The Hive Winery owner Jay Yahne has pushed the state for the past year to allow him to sell smaller, sample-sized bottles of his brandy. But the Utah alcohol commission has yet to make a decision, and Tuesday it kicked the bottle, as it were, down the road.

Commission Chairman John T. Nielsen called it a "pure policy" issue for the Utah Legislature to decide.

"Mini bottles have a checkered history in this state," he said after the commission meeting.

Under state law, sales of mini bottles of alcohol are generally illegal, though the commission can make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. One of those exceptions is for hotels and resorts, which can offer the smaller bottles for room service.

Yahne made his pitch to the seven-member panel last August, and has been a regular at its meetings ever since. He said customers aren't willing to pay for a bottle of his expensive brandy without being able to taste it first.

"We'd like to be able to sell them a taste to take home to try at home to determine if they like it or not," he said. "Our goal is to let them be responsible and go home and drink it with dinner as opposed to trying it at the facility."

Yahne, of Layton, said alcohol commissioners have been more open to the idea than he expected, but he thinks they will tell him no at some point.

We'd like to be able to sell them a taste to take home ... to determine if they like it or not.

–Jay Yahne, winery owner

Nielsen said allowing the Hive Winery to sell mini bottles would open it up to other manufacturers and distillers. The state needs a fair and uniform policy that comes from the Legislature, he said.

Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, said he would probably oppose the return of mini bottles.

"Sometimes there's one word in the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that we like to skirt around and that is the word 'control,'" he said.

Draxler said it's wise as the state has done to control the availability of alcohol to some degree. "We've certainly made it available to any legitimate drinker in almost any venue, so I don't think we need to delve into the mini bottle approach," he said.

History of mini bottle sales

The first mini bottle sales in Utah go back nearly 50 years.

In 1968, voters nixed a proposal to allow restaurants to sell liquor. But a year later, state-owned liquor outlets in restaurants were allowed to sell 1.7-ounce mini bottles like those on airlines.

Nearly two decades later, restaurants could serve mini bottles to customers who mixed their own drinks at their tables. Mini bottles were phased out in the 1990s when the state required metering devices on liquor bottles to make sure no more than an ounce of liquor would go into a drink.

Alcohol Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Wright said the question is again worthy of discussion and debate. He said he would vote for allowing Yahne to sell mini bottles but that the issue is much bigger than one winery.

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Dennis Romboy


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