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Legislature Approves Liquor Reform Bill

Lee Hale

The Utah Legislature passed the lengthy bill to reform some of the state’s alcohol laws. It now needs only Governor Herbert’s signature to become law. 

House Bill 442 has been evolving throughout the legislative session. The latest version was unveiled and debated by the Senate Wednesday afternoon. It would require all restaurants that serve alcohol to choose from installing or keeping up a barrier known as a Zion Curtain, instituting a railing or half-wall at least five feet from the bar in order to separate it from the dining area, or establishing a 10-foot zone around a bar where children are not permitted.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, co-sponsored the bill and said he’s met with plenty of stakeholders about it.

“We think this is the best we can come up with after months and months of work,” Stevenson said on the Senate floor.

The bill also includes a 2% increase in the state markup on all alcohol products, bringing the total markup to 88% for liquor. The money generated from the increase would help pay for underage drinking prevention programs for students.

It also tightens provisions regarding labeling and display of malt beverages, and would shrink the required distance between restaurants serving alcohol and community locations such as schools and churches from 600 feet to 300 feet. 

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, voted against the bill, saying he thinks it addresses an issue that’s too important to be rushed through the final hours of the legislative session.

“If this bill passes and is wrong, how difficult will it be to come again to get the changes made in the bill?” Hillyard asked. “If, on the other hand, this bill is defeated, we still have people talking, working through those issues, and we can hopefully come up with another bill.”

HB442 ultimately passed the senate by a vote of 20-9. It now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.

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