Thursday, January 8, 2009

Utah Restaurant Association Claims Senator Mike Waddoups' Anti-Alcohol Retrofitting Proposal Could Cost Each Restaurant Up To $100,000

In testimony delivered on Wednesday January 7th, 2008 before the Utah State Legislature's Administrative Rules Committee, the Utah Restaurant Association claimed that retrofitting restaurants to hide the preparation and storage of alcohol could cost each affected restaurant as much as $100,000. Full story from the Salt Lake Tribune.

District 6 State Senator Mike Waddoups (R-Taylorsville) is the point man behind the legislative effort. As discussed in this previous post, he objects in principle to kids in restaurants being able to watch alcoholic drinks being mixed. Driving his objection in particular is the display at Chili's Restaurant at 668 East 400 South in downtown Salt Lake. Right behind the hostess stand, dozens of liquor bottles are stacked in an alcove where a bartender mixes drinks, in full view of diners. But what really jacks Waddoups' jaws is the possibility that a minor could approach the counter, and if no one else is watching, reach over an 18-inch wooden barrier and snatch an alcoholic beverage placed there for servers picking up drinks for diners.

So Senator Waddoups summoned state liquor control officials to appear before the Administrative Rules Review Committee to find out why restaurants are allowed to mix alcoholic drinks in a bar setting and to brainstorm prospective solutions. During the hearings, Waddoups directed liquor-control officials to determine if rules can be tightened, including retrofitting restaurants to separate diners from areas where alcohol is prepared or stored. He also said he would consider restricting minors from bar areas at restaurants.

But the idea of retrofitting restaurants to hide the preparation and storage of alcohol was immediately panned by Utah Restaurant Association CEO Melva Sine, who estimated that such regulations would require new plumbing, electrical, flooring and other remodeling, costing an estimated $100,000 per restaurant. Sine also dismissed Waddoups' concerns about kids, stating, "The notion that young people may be tempted to drink alcohol simply because they have been exposed to a bottle of wine or liquor in a restaurant is ludicrous. In most instances, patrons who feel their child should not be looking at liquor can ask to be seated away from the bar area."

Utah restaurants must have barriers to separate alcoholic drink preparation from food preparation. While most have glass partitions, only a few have wooden partitions. To illustrate just how cumbersome Utah's liquor laws are, consider this: Under current regulations, bartenders may not hand drinks directly to diners. Servers walk around the counter, pick up the drink and deliver the alcoholic beverage to customers seated at the counter. Diners in turn, must show an intent to order a meal with their alcoholic beverage. One tourist's confusion was captured by KUTV Channel 2. “It’s ridiculous,” said Jon Schisler, a visitor from Newport Beach, CA, while dining at a downtown Japanese restaurant. “The liquor laws here, as an outsider, you don’t really know what to do, how to order, what applies, what doesn’t apply”.

This is why Governor Jon Hunstman Jr. wants to liberalize the state's liquor laws. Although Utah's tourist industry is healthy, Huntsman wants to attract more tourists, which will help the state cope more effectively with anticipated budgetary problems.

Problems towards which Senator Waddoups and his colleagues would be better advised to re-direct their focus. The potential problem of minors accessing a serving tray at Chili's would be easily solved by not placing the serving tray within customer reach, or by supervising the area. No costly retrofit is required to solve this problem.

I've previously speculated about the possibility that Senator Waddoup's obsession with this issue is driven by excessive personal involvement engendered by his wife's injuries at the hands of a drunk driver years ago. This remains a distinct possibility. But some people believe it's also because Senator Waddoups is a Mormon. I think this is only a marginal concern, though; an estimated 80 percent of the state lawmakers are LDS, and they are not all jumping on Waddoups' bandwagon. In fact, many members of the public who identify as active LDS are publicly opposing Waddoups' idea. Here is a sample comment from the Tribune story (along with a humorous comment from someone else):

PenDragon 1/8/2009 3:16:00 AM: As a active, church going mormon that works as a server I think that this is the most asinine proposal I have ever heard! I can believe he actually suggested that they remodel in order to hide the liqueur. The laws as they are right now are so frustrating. Why not just put up a big sign that says "Hey all you restaurants- SCREW YOU!" I understand trying to control underage drinking. This has nothing to do with underage drinking. This is being intolerant and wanting to punish those who believe and act differently that you do. Don't give me this "Protect the children!" crap! I was hoping to see the day when we could do away with private clubs. It seemed to actually have some steam there for awhile. Then I read something like this. The intolerance leaves me speechless.

Sid Vic 1/8/2009 3:29:00 AM: Next he'll want Hooters servers in burkhas, ya never know when a teenager will want a squeeze.

There are higher priorities for Senator Waddoups and his colleagues to tend to. What can they do for Utah communities which have already used up nearly all their snow removal funds for the year, just eight days into it? What can they do for schools like Utah State University, faced with the prospect of cutting 660 jobs because of budget cuts? What can they do to cope with increasing demands on Utah's urban transportation grid? Oh, and how did Mike Waddoups miss funding Amber Alerts? These are bread-and-butter issues affecting more of the population.


Waddoups is a DA said...

Kids don't steel alcohol from Chilli's, they steel it from convenience stores were they stack it deep on end caps by the door.

"We don't regulate business unless, except when Gayle Ruzika tells me too."

Biggest Bob said...

Good post. I'm not sure that the word "liberalize" is the correct word to describe Governor Jon Hunstman Jr.'s reasonable direction in attempting to improve the state's antiquated liquor laws.

That is unless you are stating that "liberalize" means reasonable.

Tyler Riggs said...

Excellent post. We must all rally and talk to our senators and representatives to let them know that we the people of Utah do not stand behind this bogus, ludicrous proposal that Waddoups is proposing and is receiving backing from Valentine and others. It just makes no sense whatsoever, just as the private club law makes no sense.

Tyler Riggs

Deseret Dawg said...

Waddoups is a DA - That's an excellent point. Senator Waddoups is thinking only of a worst-case scenario. One of the reasons the alcopops were moved to the state liquor stores was to cut down on teenage theft.

Deseret Dawg said...

Biggest Bob - the word "liberalize" is used strictly in relative terms only. As a matter of fact, I'm amazed that Huntsman is willing to go so far as to eliminate private clubs altogether. Beneath that perfectly-coiffed exterior is a bit of a spine.

ozboy said...

Once more proving that there is no fool like one with a little power.

Does this bozo really believe that a kid, presumably in a restaurant with his parents, is going to walk over and steal a drink from behind the counter, or is he just trying to out Butter Butters in the stupid category?

With all the problems facing the state these days and this waste of skin is focusing on silly stuff like this. Typical disingenuous NeoCon BS.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with this state? My family has been here for six years and everytime an issue as ridiculous as this gets brought to the forefront, we talk about moving. We went to Denver over the holidays. We sat in a bar with our six-year-old, oh and a dozen other families that had kids. The more you deny a human being something the more it will become and issue. Grow up Utah with your silly rules!!!!

Susanne said...

I posted the previous comments. I did not mean to be anonymous. That's kinda lame. My name is Susanne. And my comments are directly above.

Anonymous said...

Same topic, same Utah legislature, different controversey. Watch this video.

Port O' Call Travesty

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I have this correct. The Senator doesn't think that serving a drink or consuming a drink harms children however mixing a drink does? Is he hiding a problem of his own? This State will never "grow up" in my lifetime.

Hill said...

It almost sneaked up on us. The media has barely publicized it. None of Utah's pro-family lobbies addressed it. But it's one day away, and parents of school-age kids need to be reminded of it.
salt lake plumbing

Anonymous said...

Don't remind me about this.

Salt Lake City Plumber

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