When visiting Denver, two things come to mind: First, the traffic and suburban sprawl of Denver make me glad I live in Salt Lake City. Second, I can't help but look around and wonder how did Denver grow so fast and Salt Lake City, even with its breathtaking birth rate, did not? Isn't Salt Lake City the "crossroads of the West"? Shouldn't Salt Lake City, by virtue of location alone, have left Denver in its dust long ago?
My answer to that is liquor laws.
Don't tell your lawmaker, but it's really not that difficult to get a drink here. I stock booze at home for those times company comes over and liquor stores are closed. I didn't do that before I moved to Utah, and the net result is that my alcohol consumption may have increased a bit, but again, let's keep that between you and me.
Since the Utah Legislature truly banks on liquor-tax revenues, it wouldn't behoove them to make it all that onerous to get a drink. The annual crop of rules and regs is mostly just posturing to prove lawmakers are good Mormons and know how to show boozers and the liquor industry who is boss.
All that posturing, though, hurts a lot of small-business people, which is why City Weekly has to call them out. A case in point this week is Pleasant Grove's city government considering a ban on Sunday beer sales. An article in the Provo Daily Herald has one convenience-store owner claiming 20 percent of Sunday sales come from beer. Pleasant Grove's mayor, Bruce Call, wants to stop those sales and put an ordinance in place more in line with Pleasant Grove's "culture."
The way our governments regulate liquor sales is the first sign to outsiders that life in Utah might be weird. A tech firm or a manufacturing plant considering a Utah location would be embarrassed to tell its workers that their new home will be in a state that constantly tweaks liquor laws in deference to a dominant religion. Those companies then think of Denver, whose suburb, Golden, is famous for Coors Beer, whose burgeoning craft-brewing industry is celebrated each year at the Great American Brew Festival and whose nearby mountains also offer world-class skiing. It sounds like a more fun town, an easier place to attract talented workers to move to. And so that's where they go.
Pleasant Grove's mayor and city council may think it a principled stand to further regulate Utah's already hyper-regulated small-business owners. Utah County in general wants to preserve 1950s Leave It to Beaver small-town life. But they do the next generation a disservice. Their grandkids will need to move to Denver to get a job.