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Drinking test: Bill would require drinkers on Utah alcohol panel

February 25, 2012|By Ricardo Lopez
  • A 2011 photo shows Chris Taketa as he looks for liquor stored in a walk-in freezer in the back of a Salt Lake City restaurant. Utah has long been criticized for its strict liquor laws.
A 2011 photo shows Chris Taketa as he looks for liquor stored in a walk-in… (Jim Urquhart / Associated…)

A Utah lawmaker wants to ensure that the voices of drinkers will be heard in the state known for its strict regulation of alcohol.

His solution? A drinking test of sorts. But in this case, one has to drink to pass it.

A bill introduced by state Rep. Brian Doughty cleared a House of Representatives committee would require that at least two members of the state’s five-member Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission be drinkers. Loosening liquor laws in the state has been one of Doughty’s causes as a lawmaker.

The bill, HB 193, would require the governor to appoint two members to the commission only after signing an affidavit attesting to their drinking habits. The bill passed the committee on a 7-3 vote.

“At least two of the commissioners shall, for at least one year before being appointed and during their term, be consumers of an alcoholic product,” part of the bill reads.

An earlier version included a requirement that the appointed commissioners be “regular” drinkers, meaning having at least one alcoholic beverage a month.

Utah’s restrictive liquor laws have long been in place. About 70% of state residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches its members to abstain from drinking alcohol.

The strict laws have been criticized in the past by members of the Utah tourism industry, which argue they miss out on business because the laws drive away lucrative conventions to neighboring Colorado.

For such reasons, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., himself a Mormon, successfully pushed for a loosening of the state’s liquor regulations when he was in office. But state law still prohibits drinks from being mixed in front of restaurant patrons and does not allow drinkers to order a “double” at the bar.

Last year the state banned a mini-keg, dubbed the Chubby, which can hold as much beer as 14 12-ounce bottles. Regular beer kegs are already banned, except for authorized beer retailers.

Utah’s current legislative session ends in less than two weeks.

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