Valentine: No harm in hotel cocktails

Jan 28 2011 - 9:00pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah senator is proposing changes to the state's liquor laws so hotel guests can order single cocktails in their rooms.

Utah law only allows a hotel to deliver a bottle of liquor through room service, Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said. For example, if a person wants a martini, they have to order a bottle of gin and a bottle of vermouth.

But the state lawmaker said "consumption in a hotel room is not going to impact public safety very much."

Other changes would increase the number of restaurant liquor licenses by 40, Valentine said. The state has operated with a shortage of licenses for more than a year.

There is also a shortage of licenses for bars, but those will not increase, Valentine said.

Increasing restaurant licenses preserves the goal of protecting public safety because people drinking with dinner tend to avoid overconsumption, he added.

"I'm using state resources to move my social agenda," Valentine said. "We'd rather have more people drinking while they eat food."

Other changes include allowing some licenses to be sold privately instead of the state distributing all of them.

Michael Johnson, executive director for the Utah Hotel and Lodging Association, said the changes will allow full-service hotels to provide better customer service. He said the current law frustrates visitors and encourages overconsumption in a a state where limiting consumption is one of the goals of regulation.

"We come across in Utah as inhospitable and strange," Johnson said about the bottle-only room service. "Utah is known to be warm and friendly. The current law runs counter to that."

Utah does not have a hotel license common in many other states, which would allow people to carry drinks between the bar, restaurant and their rooms. Instead, a hotel may have a half-dozen or more licenses for all of the places that serve or sell liquor.

Valentine said that would not change this year because issues need to be resolved, such as preventing people from leaving the hotel with a drink.

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