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Business & Economy

Utah Legislature Approves 90 New Liquor Licenses

Andrea Smardon

State lawmakers have given the green light to 90 new liquor licenses for restaurants in Utah.  It was one of the issues decided in a special session Wednesday called by Governor Gary Herbert. 

President of the Utah Restaurant Association Melva Sine says these new licenses will be snapped up fast, and were needed for the industry to continue to grow in Utah.

“We have a critical issue here, and they’ve addressed it in the best way possible in the shortest amount of time possible, so we’re happy with that,” said Sine.

The new licenses are for restaurants only, not bars and taverns. Ogden bar owner John Chevalier told lawmakers in the Business and Labor Committee that he’s been waiting for 1 year and 8 months for a liquor license.

“I lost $100,000 in the last two years supplementing a bar that I love that’s been in business since 1930 to try to keep it in this state, said Chevalier, “It is not fair, it is not right that you’re going to open up restaurant licenses and not look at the need of clubs.”

Democratic Candidate for Lieutenant Governor Vince Rampton says if the goal is to facilitate economic growth, lawmakers need to think bigger.

“I think that while we are in the neighborhood, so to speak, while we are adjusting this, it would be wise to take a more global and ambitious approach, and see what reasonable projections can and should be made in order to facilitate the kind of growth we are hoping for,” he said.

While Rampton says the bill doesn’t go far enough, Representative Jack Draxler of North Logan stood up on the House Floor to say it might be going too far.

“The purpose of our alcohol policy cannot just be to attract restaurants to the states.  There is a lot more to it than that.  It’s time for us to re-evaluate alcohol and all its consequences, said Draxler, “ If I cast a no vote, it will not be because it’s a bad bill, it’s because we’re headed in a direction maybe we should not be headed.”

Draxler and nine other representatives voted against the bill, the vast majority of lawmakers voted for it.  Representative Gage Froerer argued that the bill bought the legislature some time for a more extensive discussion.

“Does this get us where we need to be over the next number of years? I’m not convinced of that,” said Froerer, “It does solve some immediate problems, that would get us into the next session where we can have some good policy discussions.”

The bill puts off a decision on whether restaurant and bar owners should be allowed to sell their licenses if they choose. 

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