Many of our state lawmakers hailed the first major revamp of liquor laws for Utah in 10 years as a big victory in the fight against underage drinking and drunk driving.
However, the way I see it, it is just another way, once again, to punish the "sinners" in the state and those that help those sinners to imbibe. Heaven forbid that they might make a profit from that unholy work.
Now don't get me wrong. I am not for underage drinking and I am, myself not a big drinker. My family all gets a huge kick out of how long a six pack sits in our fridge (I might go through two of them a year) and wine often sits in my basement rack so long that it increases in value because of it's vintage date.
But I am concerned when a state that is trying to attract people via it's tourist industry and is trying to survive one of the worst recessions in a very long time, does something that is going hurt businesses.
There are many issues involved here, and Utah certainly isn't the only state that spends a lot of time going after money in the form of taxes on "vices." So as much as I think part of all this mess is a form of punishment for those of us that do, rather than the part that don't, lets not even consider that aspect of this.
First is the extra penny per bottle for beer. The price increase is certainly not going to stop anyone, but the fact that the taxes from that particular refreshment gets used for everything but what it is supposed to be used for by lawmakers each year, makes me feel very uneasy. Early in the session there was a big debate about this, with the very people who are the ones who usually steal that money annually for their pet projects, confronted by those that thought if it was going to be raised it should go to drinking education programs and drunk driving enforcement. Nonetheless the raise came and next year we will see if the traditional absconder of booze money can keep their hands off the fruitcake.
But the other issue in this revamp bothered me much more. While they are now allowing a special "limited" restaurant license that allows wine to be served at certain establishments along with beer ( a good thing), the new law on minors being in Class D private clubs after 1 p.m. is another slap in the face to small private clubs that rely on alcohol revenue to support their food service activities (a bad thing). Many of these clubs rely on family business where mom and dad come in for dinner with the kids and the adults in the group have a drink with a nice meal while the kids down their soda pop. But legislators seemed to think if these kids even see the sight of a hard drink they will somehow absorb it into their brain through their eyeballs and instantly become sobriety deprived.
During the session many clubs protested this change, but it fell on deaf ears as the lawmakers went ahead and passed the new provisions to keep minors out of the clutches of the evil doers. It is obvious the "looser" controls of the Olympic Games celebration is over now that those we welcomed from the world have departed along with their dollars. It would be interesting to see how those same people might feel if they return to the beehive state again. It's just another fine feather in the cap of Utah politics.