Gov. wants 90 more liquor licenses

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 1:45 PM

Paul Foy

SALT LAKE CITY— Gov. Gary Herbert is asking the Legislature to authorize 90 new licenses allowing restaurants to sell alcohol, calling it vital for economic development.

Restaurants have claimed all 918 available licenses, leaving none available, state regulators said.

Herbert put his proposal at the top of the agenda for a special legislative session Wednesday, and the Legislature is expected to follow his lead. Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, is introducing a bill to add 50 liquor licenses and 40 beer and wine licenses.

Utah limits licenses allowing the sale of beer and wine to one for every 8,373 residents, and licenses also allowing the sale of liquor to one for every 4,925 people, said Vicki Ashby, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Utah has 340 of the limited restaurant licenses and 578 full-service licenses in circulation, Ashby said. Just one limited license could become available this month based on the latest population figures tracked by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, she said.

The Republican governor said the population quotas have left Utah without enough restaurant licenses to go around, limiting business growth. He said more licenses will provide greater certainty in the marketplace.

Valentine’s measure raises license fees 10 percent to help add four liquor-enforcement officers.

Herbert also called on legislators Wednesday to fill a $25 million budget gap in funding for public schools.

An accounting error forced the ouster of two Utah Department of Education officials who were blamed for under-estimating the number of students who will be enrolled in public schools after the summer break.

The error miscalculated how much per-pupil student funding Utah will need and left a $25 million gap in a $3 billion budget, officials have said.

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