Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Alcohol is on its way to dry Highland, Utah

For the first time, liquor licenses will soon be available for four restaurants in Highland, Utah.
Sandi Williams
For the first time, liquor licenses will soon be available for four restaurants in Highland, Utah.

In January, the Highland, Utah, city council voted to allow alcohol in their city – which had been one of nine dry communities in the state.

Now, a last ditch effort to prevent the change has failed. Two referendums to put the issue before voters in November failed. One was 72 signatures short of the 1,439 needed.

The city will now be able to issue four liquor licenses. These will only be given to restaurants that serve food, and no liquor can be sold after 10 p.m.

Highland had been a dry community since it was incorporated in 1977 – with the exception of the Alpine Country Club. They were already doing so before Highland became a city. Back then, there were just over 2,400 people living in the area – according to the 1980 census. Now, there are 19,902.

“A lot of the newer development is in higher density areas with condos and apartments, so we're getting a younger population,” said city councilor Ron Campbell.

“There's still younger people that say, ‘I don't drink alcohol, but I don't want to stop somebody else from drinking alcohol. And by the way, we need something other than fast food.’”

Campbell received complaints about the city’s inability to attract higher-end, sit down restaurants because they don’t serve alcohol and aren’t allowed to open on Sundays.

In 2021, Midtown National Group acquired Highland Marketplace and made plans to develop it with more drive-throughs and fast food places. Then, Campbell said the developers came to the council with a new plan.

“The owner of that development, the CEO, just thought, ‘I want to make this a really pristine, central focal point for Highland with nicer restaurants and a nice development.”

To attract them, he said they needed to be able to sell alcohol.

When the issue was discussed, Campbell said “there was a lot of public clamor.” The council decided to conduct a survey of their constituents, with many promising to vote based on those results.

3,423 residents filled out the survey, which he said is nearly three times the number of responses they’d had on any previous city survey. 62% were in favor of allowing alcohol.

“Most of the people that showed up to our public hearings on this were against it. But that's why we did the survey, because public clamor doesn't always represent the will of the people,” Campbell said.

Long-time resident Liz Rice is against the change. After the city council vote, she coordinated efforts to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot because she believed Highland is “a wonderful, quiet place.”

Rice doesn’t want the city to move away from its traditional values. She also worries that this change will increase the need for police and EMT presence in the city.

“We always kind of felt like Highland was a little bit of a special place, but it's certainly not.”

Tilda is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in the Central Utah bureau based out of Provo.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.