The reports of undercover stings in which Utah restaurants are being cited for providing patrons drinks prior to ordering food is both petty and a reminder of how Utah's Carrie Nation approach to liquor laws can hurt tourism in our state.
In December, nine restaurants paid fines because patrons enjoyed a drink prior to dinner. While this obscure rule is on the books in Utah, it's been sparsely enforced primarily because it's general knowledge that it is an obtuse law. Anyone with common sense on this issue realizes that people do not go to restaurants with the intent to get drunk. Dining is an outside social activity that primarily involves food. The stings are just another reminder of how dumb Utah's liquor policies can often be.
We hope Utah's undercover liquor cops aren't embarrassing our state during this year's Sundance Film Festival. It's been reported that there will be undercover snoops at restaurants during the festival, which is already under way. These types of foolish crusades over an issue that is not a problem can only damage the state's image, and negatively affect tourism.
One key reason that there have been more fines is that Utah legislators are demanding more liquor enforcement officers. There are now 19. Lawmakers are also likely in a tizzy over the welcome addition of 90 restaurant liquor licenses in Utah. We've no doubt that overly moralistic legislators, who too often are out of touch with many of their constituents, may feel Torquemada-like at the idea of persons at a restaurant enjoying a pre-dinner drink.
But the rest of us understand perfectly well that there is nothing wrong with a restaurant serving a drink while patrons peruse a menu. To legislators, and the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, stop harassing eateries.