I hear a lot of people pooh-pooh Utah’s cumbersome and often arcane liquor laws and drinking regulations. I’ve even been known to throw a stone into that high-octane pool myself on occasion. But in truth, while Utah’s liquor laws seem stricter than in other states, Utah is actually just one of 18 states in the United States regulated by a “Control State System.” As a college student, I recall driving across a state line in Massachusetts'or was it Pennsylvania?'years ago to buy beer because we’d missed that state’s 8 p.m. cutoff for beer and liquor sales. And even in wild-and-wooly New York City'where after-hours clubs serve cocktails until well after sunup'you can’t buy beer before noon on Sundays.
But frankly, there are laws and regulations that are a really good idea. For example, I remember that when I turned old enough to drink legally, that age was only 18. In two of the states where I lived'Ohio and Colorado'being 18 meant that one could get into bars and nightclubs but could only purchase and consume 3.2 beer. Apparently, it never dawned on anyone that an 18 year-old'or a 50 year-old, for that matter'could get drunk on 3.2 beer. Once you “matured” to the ripe age of 21, you could drink three-for-one Long Island Ice Teas at happy hour or the Friday Afternoon Club (anyone else remember FACs?) and drive the VW Rabbit back to campus in time for a fraternity kegger. Not a good idea.
I also doubt that I ever paid for a Friday-evening meal in my college days. That’s because where I lived, bars and clubs would give away buffets of food for free in order to keep folks there buying booze. Obviously, it’s not a bad idea to have some food around when you’ve got people consuming alcohol. But as I look back on it, these happy “hoursâ€'which often lasted from 4â€“8 p.m., or even until midnight'were really all about selling alcohol, and lots of it.
The point is that while Utah does have some truly silly liquor laws'the private club system being the most inane of all'there are rules and regulations in virtually ever state now, including Utah, that actually do protect some of us from ourselves and innocent citizens from the wildly irresponsible among us. But did you know that Utah is also on the cutting edge of libation liberalism, at least where wine is concerned?
I’ll explain. Some of Utah’s booze laws have a reverse effect from what was probably intended. These are commonly known as “chug” laws. For example, the fact that you can’t have more than one drink in front of you means that when the server comes to bring you the second drink you ordered, you wind up chugging the remains of the first. Probably not what the sanctioning spirits at UDABC had in mind.
So kudos to Utah for being one of just a handful of states that allow consumers of wine in restaurants to take leftover wine home with them. For many years, I and other wine lovers in this state found ourselves chugging our bottles of wine at the end of dinner because we didn’t want to have to leave them behind. Well, although that was and is still true in most of the United States, it’s no longer the case here in Utah. If you haven’t heard, for a while now we’ve been able in Utah to recork any unused wine purchased at a restaurant and take it home to drink later. And that, my friends, is a Utah booze law we can all live with.