Mullen | Doing My Part: Building the local economy through booze. | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Mullen | Doing My Part: Building the local economy through booze. 

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The joy of my holiday season included a stop at the state’s newest wine store (which also offers a smattering of upscale spirits and beers for good measure). A low-slung, smoke-gray building on the east side of 300 West at 1600 South in Salt Lake City, the store is a grand little oasis in a heavily industrial neighborhood. Good signage is missing, but then that’s typical of all state liquor stores. I passed it twice while looking for it. n

It’s the furthest thing from the typical Utah liquor-store experience, meaning that for once you don’t feel slightly subhuman—like you’re standing in line for your ration of bread and potatoes in the old Soviet Union. This place has actual windows with a view of the street. If you shop there on a sunny day, real shafts of light shine through and bounce off the wine bottles. User-friendly computers allow shoppers to search for wines by cost, color and place of origin. Did I mention the nifty wine chiller that makes it possible to take chilled wine to your dinner party? And a parking lot large enough to back out of without rolling over someone?


I came out of this store feeling like such a big girl I wanted to share the news with City Weekly readers. If you go there, the experience might be the closest you’ll come to feeling like you’re in a city in another state where people who set liquor laws understand that most of us are social drinkers. We are simply looking for the occasional bottle of wine to accompany a meal or a little tequila for a summer margarita party.


But alas, the foundation of simple, social drinking—that it is possible to drink a beer or a cocktail without getting plastered and wreaking havoc on the freeways—never works its way into Utah legislators’ psyches. In late December, incoming state Senate Majority Leader Mike Waddoups announced that 20 of 29 senators had decided to oppose the governor’s long-debated proposal to dump the requirement for private club memberships.


Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, has said the Senate’s interest is in protecting children and guarding the general public from drunken drivers. He has said this in spite of the well-publicized position of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who has spent the last two years trying to force a few Utah liquor laws into something beyond the Bronze Age. The guv is hardly alone. The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission supports dropping the private-club membership rule. And anyone living in Utah with even half a cerebral cortex knows this, too: the governor would never have made even slightly progressive proposals surrounding this vice without getting some sort of positive signal from the LDS Church hierarchy.


That’s because most people in Utah want to be hospitable—to visitors and to each other. We know that making it easier to get a drink in this state—again, because most folks know how to handle liquor like sensible grownups—builds good will and fortifies the economy (and couldn’t this state use that right about now?) We loosened up seven years ago for the 2002 Winter Olympics, promising “the world is welcome here.” That went well. I think we forgot how well. Now it sounds like the 2009 Legislature will be back enjoying its bunker mentality all over again.


In his new leadership position, Waddoups’ key responsibility will be to move legislation through the Senate. He’ll have to rely on compromise now and again. On liberalizing liquor laws, he’s already reminded us his wife was injured after being hit by a drunken driver several years ago. He feels some kind of moral obligation to take on the issue of drinking and driving.


Certainly, his past shapes the way he views the present. But it’s also perfectly reasonable to expect that Waddoups act like a leader, widen his scope and think beyond his own living room when considering laws that affect all of us.


Legislators have had months of good, reasonable testimony from rational adults for changing the private-club membership regulation. Waddoups and the rest of the Senate owe them all thoughtful consideration on this issue. That’s what good leaders do.


Besides, Utahns who drink and the thousands of tourists who shop at our liquor stores each year are doing their share to keep our listing economy from sinking. Last month the DABC heard the final report on 2008 state liquor sales, which rose 6 percent from 2007 and have trended upward for three years in a row. In 2008, liquor-sales revenue reached nearly $106 million—$7 million more than 2007 and $21 million more than 2006.


I thought about the financial injection I was making to my state as I strolled the aisles at the new wine store. It felt good. I’m doing my part to build our economy. Couldn’t Waddoups and his peeps do their part to recognize that contribution and reinforce us with some reasonable liquor legislation this year?



nn n n n n n n
(Not) According to Jim:
n It’s been 175 weeks since Rep. Jim Matheson
n spoke to
City Weekly.

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