Utah Liquor Laws Makes Life Hard for Business

Fri Jul 22, 2011 12:46am EDT

If there was ever a group of laws that made it difficult for those in the hospitality industry, it surely wouldn't surpass the hardships imposed by Utah liquor laws.

Though they were slightly relaxed in 2009, they still prove to be a confusing mixture of time restrictions, licensing levels, and state owned liquor stores.

And don't forget about the new ban on happy hour and drink specials.

In fact, Utah's happy hour ban has renewed nationwide interest in the state's liquor laws, which are considered to be the strictest in the country.

Utah requires all consumer purchases of liquor, wine, and heavy beer (3.2%) to be made from state liquor stores or special package agencies. They also prohibit most restaurants and bars from selling these stronger spirits after midnight.

Some venues can only serve beer.

Those with club licenses, which are the most difficult to get as a result of a new law that limits their numbers by population density, are also the only establishments allowed to serve all types of alcoholic beverages without requiring patrons to purchase food.

You can't get a drink at a restaurant bar unless you purchase something edible.

Speaking with The New York Times, a group of bar and restaurant owners have indicated that Utah liquor laws have put severe stress on their businesses.

The happy hour ban has caused business to "slow down," according to Bridget Gordon, while Marv White pegs the laws as irrational and "almost capricious."

To that point, the law limits the strength of drinks, allowing bartenders to pour only 1.5 ounces of "primary" liquor into a mixed drink, with an additional ounce of "secondary" spirits.

As the Times points out, this means that a patron can't order a vodka tonic with a side shot of vodka, but can order a vodka tonic with a side shot of whisky.

Utah liquor laws are certainly something to contend with for those in the industry, showing just how difficult it is to run a business with such limiting regulation.

Related Resources:

  • Utah's Liquor Laws: Still Crazy, but Less So (I Think) (Reason Magazine)
  • Utah Bars, Private Clubs and the Zion Curtain: Liquor Law Overhaul? (FindLaw's Common Law)
  • Utah's Happy Hour Ban: Liquor Lawsuit Filed (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life)
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