Legislature Set to Revamp Liquor Laws

Legislature Set to Revamp Liquor Laws

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News Specialist John Daley reportingA comprehensive new liquor law bill is on tap up at Utah's Legislature, and is expected to be introduced next week.

The bill would make dozens of changes and would be the most significant alteration of liquor laws since 1990, when Utah lawmakers banned mini-bottles.

Here's the list of proposed changes -- some of them are sort of house-keeping measures, others are bound to be a bit controversial.

The head of the Alcohol Control Board says the changes are designed to target two things: under-age drinkers and over-consumption.

When it comes to Utah's alcohol rules, the 2002 Olympics were a bit of a milestone because of what didn't happen.

With both locals and the international press watching closely, the state essentially left liquor laws alone, rather than make major changes that might set-off a distracting controversy.

Now, Utah lawmakers are set to make a long list of changes to those laws in a 260-page bill.

Utah's department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has been compiling a list of items it feels now need to be addressed.

"It just covers the whole spectrum. There’s a lot of things that I think a lot of people are going to like. There's probably some things in it a lot of people aren't going to like," says Kenneth Wynn, director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The legislation would create two new licenses.

One for restaurants that want to serve only beer and wine, but not hard liquor, and another "banquet catering license" that would allow hotels, convention centers and sporting events to offer alcohol when catering special parties.

The new bill also makes it easier for out-of-towners to go to Utah's private clubs, something the hospitality industry supports.

The change calls for visitors to pay a $4 temporary membership fee that is good for three weeks, and allows up to eight people to enter on one membership.

"Overall, I think it's a good balance between tightening up regulations where it needed to be tightened up and being a little bit more accommodating to visitors on the other hand," says Nicholas Hales, the beverage commission's chairman.

The bill increases some licensing fees.

It would increase the markup on liquor from 61 percent to 63 percent. That would raise upwards of $1.5 million that would be earmarked for liquor law enforcement and DUI patrols.

And, the item that could stir the most controversy?

An increase in the wholesale tax on beer -- how much that increase would be has not yet been determined.

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