Utah theocracy
 Peculiar & Curious
Liquor Laws

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Any Utah establishment that dispenses alcoholic beverages for consumption on its premises must have an appropriate license.  The number of licenses that can be awarded is based upon a ratio related to population.   The Utah licensing authority may, and does, defer to local sentiment in regard to the issuance of licenses.

Licensed establishments must be located at some defined minimum distance from schools, churches and other institutions which could be tainted by their proximity to booze.  Exceptions and variances to these regulations are available.

The Utah liquor laws are administered by The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. Currently, this commission is composed of five appointed members, four of whom are male Mormon lawyers and teetotalers. The commission meets regularly to tend to routine business, to invoke license suspensions, to declare exceptions and to award a few new licenses to lucky applicants.

A person must be 21 to purchase or consume alcohol. All liquor is dispensed by metered plumbing. One ounce per serving. No doubles. A patron cannot be served more than one drink at a time. Before a patron can be served a drink any previous drinks must have been fully consumed. No one under 21 can be present in a tavern or beer bar.


 These establishments may sell beer no stronger than 3.2% by weight. They need not serve food.

AIRPORT LOUNGES  Can serve beer, wine and mixed drinks with or without food. There are only a very few of these. They are all located at the Salt Lake International Airport and are intended to give visitors a warm first impression.

BREW PUBS  Serves beer which was brewed on premises. There are some of these in the state.

RESTAURANTS  With the proper license, alcoholic beverages may be served with meals. Liquor bottles must be hidden from view. Servers are not allowed to solicit or suggest drinks. Patrons must request a wine list or drink menu. If a restaurant derives more than 30% of its profit from alcoholic beverage sales it can lose its license.

PRIVATE CLUBS  Beer, wine and mixed drinks may be consumed in non-exclusive private clubs between 10 AM and 1 AM. These clubs by law must be non-profit organizations, must charge a membership fee and are barred from advertising to boost membership..

3.2% beer can be purchased in grocery and convenience stores subject to local ordinances.

RESORTS & CONVENTION CENTERS   The regulations and laws in this area are confusing, complex and befuddling, sometimes requiring multiple licenses and permits.

Excerpt from the Ogden Standard Examiner - October 31, 1999

Proposed legislation creating a "Banquet" license designed to alleviate the Resort and Convention Center problem is now before the Utah State Legislature.

Cap Ferry, former State Senate President and author of the bill said he is still waiting for comments from the LDS Church.

"If they say 'No', it's dead." , Ferry said.

He added that he hopes LDS Church officials will give their position on the proposed license before the Legislature starts in January.   " We don't want to put in a lot of work only to have it killed an the last day."

UTAH STATE-OWNED LIQUOR STORES are the sole dispensers of carry-out liquor, wine and real beer. There are a number of these stores hidden throughout the state. They are closed on Sundays, holidays and other designated times.  Lack of competition keeps the selection severely limited. Prices for wine and liquor are fixed with a minimum of 61% mark-up over cost, plus high state taxes. For real beer, the mark-up is 75% plus taxes, making the retail cost of some six-packs well over $10. Because of all this, the small community of Evanston, Wyoming (located about 70 miles east of Salt Lake City just over the Utah border) enjoys a bustling economy based on a large number of retail liquor stores located along Interstate 80.

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