liquor legislation impacts economic development, tourism

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 10:44 AM

Steve Curtis

“The one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period is contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development”

— Ronald Reagan

Liquor legislation has an impact on economic development, tourism and overall quality of life in Utah.

Regulating how alcohol is dispensed requires careful consideration, tolerance of the views of others and an open dialogue among stakeholders, including the community at large.

This discussion has become pervasive in our state, particularly as it relates to moral and economic public policies.

Understanding different perspectives about alcohol regulations leads to more- informed policy decisions. The social ramifications of alcohol consumption must be understood and considered in determining policy. There is also a counterbalancing obligation to understand the needs of restaurants, hotels and other businesses to operate in an equitable and productive financial environment.

Many unintended consequences of liquor regulations on fair market and local economies should be identified and guarded against.

Government should be an efficient economic regulator of business, not an obstacle. It needs to be cognizant of municipal efforts to have a business-friendly environment, as it relates to alcohol regulations, in accommodating the dining and entertainment industries.

Following are liquor laws being proposed in the current legislative session:

• SB 167, Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem.

This bill would allows chains operating at least five restaurants to get one license. If a restaurant had 10 full-service licenses and applied for a master license, that would make available to others nine full-service licenses.

The Master License also reduces unpredictability for a new chain restaurant entering the Utah market. In July 2012, 90 additional licenses were created by the Legislature.It is anticipated that these will all be used up this spring.

This legislation received a unanimous favorable recommendation from Senate Business and Labor Committee.

• HB 218, Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville.

This bill would amends the license allocation, reducing unused reception licenses and redistributing them to the more-coveted dining licenses. It also changes language so that a restaurant may provide an alcoholic drink to a patron who “intends” to dine, as opposed to a patron being required to order food before the drink is served. In early January, the DACB fined multiple businesses for serving drinks that were not in connection with a food order.

This legislation is still in committee.

• HB 228, Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden.

This bill would eliminatethe Zion Curtain requirement for restaurants. The Iron Curtain is meant to differentiate bars from restaurants and does not make practical sense when implemented. This makes it difficult for new restaurants to come to Utah, and forces footprint and design modifications that don’t make sense.

This legislation is still in committee.

Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at

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