Thursday, February 25, 2010

(No) More Booze

Posted By on February 25, 2010, 8:36 AM

Liquor license limits could increase, as long as it means less people drinking and does not benefit locally-owned businesses.---

The way to woo a legislator, as any lobbyist can attest, is through their stomach. And, apparently, it is even more effective if the food is served up by a national chain that has not opened in Utah.

A House committee passed a substituted version of HB223 that will rejigger population ratios for full-service restaurant licenses, wine & beer restaurant licenses, and tavern licenses. The first two will increase enough to hopefully provide a cushion for the currently maxed-out restaurant licenses, especially liquor, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Gage Froerer. Tavern licenses, which permit a bar to serve only 3.2 beer, will be reduced because there is currently a relatively significant surplus. A side benefit to decreasing tavern licenses is that legislators can crow to their constituents that they actually reduced the amount of potential liquor that could be served in this, ahem, fine state.

The bill will not address private club licenses, because those are licenses to get people drunk. Currently, there are 10 clubs waiting for a license—and some of them have been waiting for months—almost all of which are assuredly owned by locals. You know, Utah's Own.

Not that helping local businesses actually matters to the Legislature. What really seemed to sell legislators on the committee: Buffalo Wild Wings and Dave & Busters. Multiple developers spoke the chains, and possibly others, wanting to open in Utah. But with only one full-service liquor license currently available—chains like to open at least a half-dozen places at the same time—they are not willing to risk it.

In fact, Froerer told the committee at the end of the hearing, the revised bill was not even really a liquor bill. Instead, he described it as "jobs bill." Somehow, even with that reference to one of President Obama's initiatives, the bill passed the committee and now heads to the House floor.

Maybe, it's that legislators are actually fans of "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," and the sell-out episode of said show convinced them they needed a Dave & Busters. In that case, how about a cold Coors Light, representative?

 

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Josh Loftin

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