SALT LAKE CITY -- If Utah's alcohol laws are loosened up a bit, it could boast the state's economy, one businessman said.
That's why Steve Bogden supports House Bill 270, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville.
The bill, if passed, will increase the number of liquor licenses issued to restaurants and could change the definition of dining clubs, Froerer said.
Froerer said when most people go into a dining club, they have no idea it's not a restaurant. In a dining club, a person can order an alcoholic drink at a bar and then carry it themselves to a table. In a full-service restaurant, a server has to bring the drink from the bar to the table.
The number of restaurant and dining club liquor licenses is based on the state's population. Froerer would like to change the equation so more alcohol licenses are available to restaurants.
The bill has been assigned to the House Government Operations Committee.
Ultimately, Froerer said, he would like to see legislators abolish the current quota system used to allocate liquor licenses to restaurants.
"The time is not now, but maybe in 2013 or 2014," Froerer said.
"The bill will help Utah get restaurants that want to come to our state," said Bogden, who is the managing director and principal broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial.
Bogden said abolishing Utah's quota system would bring many restaurant chains, like Olive Garden, Market Street Grill, Buffalo Wild Wings, and the New Yorker, to all parts of Utah, not just Salt Lake County. Restaurant chains have expressed interest in building in Weber, Davis, Utah and Washington counties, he said.
But companies don't want to pay out the money to begin the process of building a restaurant unless they have assurance they will receive a liquor license. And many don't want to just invest in just one building, but in several throughout the state, he said.
Utah currently issues a limited number of liquor licenses to sit-down restaurants based on its population. When that number is gone, no more licenses are issued.
Bogden said in most cases a person does not go to a sit-down restaurant to get "rip-roaring drunk," but to have a glass of wine or a cocktail with their dinner.
Bogden said when a new restaurant comes to town it doesn't just hire a couple of servers, a cook and a busboy or two. The economic impact begins with the construction of the restaurant, to the landscape, to those who supply the restaurant, as well as those who work inside the restaurant.
The quota system "is costing this state hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax, liquor tax revenue, employment and economic development," Bogden said.