Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Opening The "Zion Curtain": Summary Of The Historic Changes In Utah's Alcohol Laws Resultant From SB187, Senator John Valentine The Point Man

The 2009 Utah Legislature will go down in history as having made history. Utahns clearly were ready to bring their liquor laws out of the Dark Ages, and the legislature, prodded by the "still small voice" of Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., rose to the occasion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which remains the dominant cultural influence in the state, also facilitated the change by relaxing their traditional opposition to liquor-by-the-drink, instead re-directing their concern towards behavioral issues such as DUI.

SB187 was the flagship bill, resulting from weeks of difficult negotiations between those with passionate and divergent views. The negotiations nearly broke down several times, but in the end, Senate President Michael Waddoups (R-Taylorsville) praised Sen. John Valentine (R-Orem) for working through SB187, a "masterful, history-making piece of legislation". The legislation was approved in the House by a 65-5 vote with 5 abstentions, and in the Senate by a 25-0 vote with 4 abstentions (this applies to the final version with amendments).

So what does SB187, which modifies the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act and which takes effect on July 1st, 2009, do exactly? A concise bullet summary is posted on the Utah Legislature Watch blog:

-- There will be no more "Zion Curtain" (screens off bar area from dining area).
-- Private Clubs will no longer be required, but businesses that wish to can retain that status.
-- Anyone appearing under the age of 35 will have to have a scannable ID, and a record of that will be kept for 7 days (changed from 5 at the last moment). ID scanners could cost bar owners anywhere from $200 to $500 per unit.
-- That record will be made available to law enforcement agencies as needed.
-- There will be a flat fee, not a graduated fee for liquor license holders.
-- New restaurants cannot have a bar area. Drinks must be prepared in a back room.
-- Existing restaurants will be grandfathered.
-- Existing restaurants can remove the Zion Curtain.
-- Existing restaurants that wish to remodel to remove bar area will get a $30,000 credit to DABC.
-- The remodeling will be paid for with Senator Scott McCoy’s SB 106 that removes tags from bottles of alcohol sold in Utah.
-- There’s a new Resort License (no further explanation)
-- Keeping provision that you can’t look drunk.

The Provo Daily Herald, the Ogden Standard-Examiner, and the Deseret News also summarized the new laws.

But SB187 didn't come for free. As part of the agreement, HB129 was required to toughen penalties for underage drinkers, HB21 to increase DUI penalties, and HB313 to increase the liability for bars which serve intoxicated patrons.

Gov. Huntsman placed his marker before the session, stating it was one of his top priorities to "normalize" Utah's often antiquated and complicated liquor laws in order to boost the state's $6-billion-a-year tourism industry. Gov. Huntsman is expected to sign SB187 when it reaches his desk.

KTVX Channel 4 exclusively learned of some other behind-the-scenes issues during the formulative period. Among them:
-- The so-called 10 foot wall in restaurants to prevent minors from seeing drinks was never going to happen. It was simply a "straw man" aimed at getting restaurants to the negotiating table.
-- Senator Gene Davis (D-Salt Lake) originated the ideal of grandfathering existing restaurants to prevent them from being forced to build separate alcohol preparation areas.
-- The LDS Church supported the electronic ID scanners which will now go in all bars, but didn't approve of those ID records going to a central state database.
-- The LDS Church was cautioned that if the legislature didn't do away with clubs, there might be a serious effort to put the issue on the ballot as an initiative.

1 comment:

steel68 said...

I say we try Prohibition again just to see how interesting things get!

Do you have any good "drinking stories" Dawg you would like to share with your visitors? Don't tell me you've never felt it necessary to abandon yourself to the mighty ecstacy of Dionysian intoxication.Its liberation and its madness!

So many "laws" to try and prevent the God from revealing himself.Of course, social order must be retained, however, the God needs his rites, his festivals and his recognition. Ask Cadmus the consequences of the denial of the deity. He is the God who comes! Perhaps madness is divine!

"Reality is a crutch for those who can't handle drugs"-Lily Tomlin