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Utah legislature to approve landmark liquor legislation.

Utah legislature to approve landmark liquor legislation

Landmark legislation that both liberalizes and tightens Utah's strict liquor laws passed the House last week as easily as it coursed through the Senate 10 days earlier.

The legislation allows licensed restaurants and private clubs to serve patrons mixed drinks poured from metered bottles that dispense a single ounce of liquor, eliminating 1.7-oz. mini-bottles used for more than two decades.

But the bill also bans the practice of "brown-bagging," in which a customer brings his own liquor to an establishment, a provision that had earned the ire of tavern owners who profit from mixer sales.

After just 30 minutes of debate, the House voted 55-14 to pass the measure and returned it to the Senate, which approved a minor amendment.

The bill now goes to Gov. Norm Bangerter, who said he'd sign it into law "as soon as I get it," likely early next week.

Rep. Stan Smedley (R-Bountiful), who sponsored the bill in the House, told lawmakers it was in line with Utah's "philosophical approach of control, availability of liquor to those who drink and those who do not."

Smedley, who co-chaired the legislative task force that worked for 18 months before emerging with the bill, said he was "extremely pleased" at its quick passage through the Legislature.

"I do think that we have taken a giant step forward as far as making our liquor consumption more compatible with what (residents) of other states expect as they travel and have commerce within our state," Smedley said. "And I think we have still tried to honor the integrity of those who don't want us to become a `free-pour' state."

The Mormon Church, which forbids the use of alcohol by its members, had said earlier it would not oppose the legislation, and Smedley acknowledged that was a "significant factor" in the predominantly Mormon Legislature.

Sponsors have said the legislation will help encourage tourism in Utah, which is bidding on the 1998 Olympic Winter Games.

Indeed, one of its provisions allows lounges at Salt Lake International Airport to serve liquor by the drink without a meal, making that the only "free-pour" zone in the state.

The amendment permits tavern owners to continue serving customers who brown-bag until Jan. 1, 1991, giving tavern owners an additional six months to make the adjustment.

The 291-page bill doubles the number of state liquor licenses for restaurants to 380, and adds another 40 private club licenses to be earmarked for taverns wishing to become clubs.

Critics, however, have said the package caters to tourists at the expense of Utah drinkers who have lived with strict regulations for years.

"It's kind of denigrating to our own citizenry," said Rep. Douglas J. Holmes (R-South Ogden) during a recent debate.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Feb 19, 1990
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