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Bill to ban private club laws passes committee



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Utah may be one step closer to doing away with private club laws. A house committee approved a measure tonight that would eliminate the controversial law that requires customers to buy a membership to enter a bar or club in Utah.

For those who support the change, this is a big step forward. The bill passed by a vote of 8-5, but lawmakers still have to debate House Bill 347 and vote for it before private club laws go away.

Instead of memberships, the bill would require bars to scan the IDs of those who look younger than 30.

"It's not loosening liquor laws. It's actually a more thorough process in scrutinizing underage potential patrons," said Rep. Greg Hughes, sponsor of HB 347.

The law currently requires people to sign up for a membership, pay a fee and provide personal information to a bar or club they would like to enter.

Critics of the law say it hurts tourism, it's confusing and no longer protects the public. "To me, the liquor laws, especially the club laws, tend to inhibit my ability to adequately provide hospitality to my guests in its purist form," said Art Cazares, general manager of Bambara Restaurant.

But supporters say it helps prevent underage drinking and holds bar owners accountable for over serving customers.

"His bill, as it's written now, is not just a bad bill. It's a terrible bill, and it will increase underage drinking, and it will increase drunk driving, and it will harm the whole state. And we as citizens need to say: Put that bill back! Get some rewrites before you put it back," said Jaynie Brown, with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

HB 347 would also do away with the so-called "Zion Curtain," which separates bartenders from customers in restaurants.

Though the bill still has to go through the House and Senate, Gov. Jon Huntsman has already said he supports doing away with private club laws.

E-mail: wjohnson@ksl.com

Whit Johnson

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