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Governor Pans Notion of Privatizing Liquor Sales

Robert Young
Flickr Creative Commons
Gov. Gary Herbert questioned the value of privatizing state liquor sales.

Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has been embroiled in controversy over inventory management and low morale. But Governor Gary Herbert said Thursday he’s comfortable with the way things are going now.

With DABC’s troubles back in the news after key personnel quit, the governor said the morale complaints had been reviewed by human resources officials. He also defended the new, computerized inventory system for keeping stock moving at the 43 liquor stores the state owns.

“I think the system is working pretty good,” he said at his monthly KUED-Channel 7 news conference, “so I don’t know that it’s broke and needs fixin’.”

Herbert brushed off the idea of privatizing Utah’s liquor stores during. He said the state-owned operation netted more than $137 million last year for education and other programs.

“To privatize it, you would lose all of that profitability, and so that may not be such a good thing,” the governor said. “That’s a pretty big hole you’d have to fill.”

The governor also questioned whether shifting liquor sales to the private sector would violate strong state principles against unhealthy behaviors.

“The concern would be, if we had it privatized, there would be some kind of promotion of alcohol consumption, which would maybe not be desirable,” he said.

Herbert said concerns about DABC are taken seriously and that his own staff was visiting the stores to talk with employees and customers for their assessments.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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