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Opponents Step Up Pressure On Governor To Veto BAC Bill

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Michele Corigliano of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association speaks at a rally against HB 155 on March 17. Corigliano and other industry groups want Gov. Herbert to veto the bill, which would lower the state's BAC from .08 to .05.

Opponents of a bill that would lower Utah's blood alcohol limit to .05 rallied at the Capitol on Friday to persuade Gov. Gary Herbert to veto the measure.

Several dozen people gathered inside the sun-filled rotunda holding signs that read “Don’t Hurt Utah Business” and “One Step Forward, .05 Steps BAC.”

House Bill 155 has received pushback from the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association, the American Beverage Institute and other groups who say the law would greatly harm the state’s tourism and hospitality industry.

“Our main objection is it really does nothing to serve the public good, and it's just a huge black eye to the state of Utah," said Doug Hofeling, chief operating officer of Salt Lake Brewing Company, which runs Squatters and Wasatch breweries.

“In a session where we’re getting rid of the Zion Curtain — [it] has completely been washed away by this bill, which again will have very little to no public safety effect,” he says.

The bill would make Utah’s blood alcohol content limit the strictest in the country. The legislation received mixed support from lawmakers during the session, but comfortably passed both houses.

At least one supporter of the bill, Edward Staley of Riverton, attended Friday’s rally. Staley says he was hit by a drunk driver in 1988 and has suffered from chronic pain since then.

“What I’m saying is...people can plan on going out to a movie, they plan on going out to eat, they plan on refreshments — why can’t they plan something as simple as how they’re going to get home?” he says.  

In a statement, the governor’s office says Gov. Herbert is carefully evaluating the legislation. He’ll meet with representatives from Utah's hospitality industry next week before deciding whether to sign the bill.


Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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