SB261 sponsored by Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, makes a number of changes to Utah liquor law – including a repeat that the liquor commission can’t avoid state alcohol law just because the commissioners may not like what some of it says.
Valentine passed out a “talking point” summary of SB261, which is attached to this story.
Chief among them, says Valentine, is that restaurants – who were greatly helped in the 2009 “liquor-by-the-drink” reform – have to get serious about stopping underage drinking.
Utah has adopted a sophisticated, driver’s license scanning system.
Before selling alcohol to anyone who looks like they may be under the age of 35, a restaurant and bar employee must scan the person’s Utah driver’s license (or verify an out of state license). The person must be 21 or older to drink alcohol.
But, said Valentine, various DABC/Department of Public Safety “sting” operations last year and in 2011 found that upwards of 30 percent of the time restaurant employees either ignored the I.D. verification requirements, or were fooled by fake I.D.s.
“In any case,” said Valentine, “this is not good law enforcement.
“We need to make sure restaurants are getting the message” that they need to do a better job.
So, SB261, among other things, increases the fines for violations of selling liquor to minors: First offense is a $2,500 fine; second offense is a $5,000 fine and third offense is a $15,000 fine. And anywhere along this process the restaurant could lose its liquor license or face a time suspension when it can’t serve liquor – both being really bad for business.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said that while he realizes two of his concerns aren’t in the bill, he would still like Valentine (who has become the “go-to guy” in the Senate on liquor reform) to look into them for the 2014 Legislature.
First, said Hillyard, he doesn’t like the fact that beer bars, or restaurants who sell beer, can’t have “sales” on beers; they must charge the state-set price.
But a convenience store or grocery store down the road can have a “sale” on beer, and sell it at a lower price than the beer tavern can.
Secondly, Hillyard added, he knows of one Logan beer tavern where the owner gives any employee who catches a fake I.D. gets a $500 bonus.
“It is that important” to the tavern owner “that underage drinking not take place” in his establishment – and he could lose his liquor license.
Hillyard would like to see a law where the offending fake I.D. person, in a court procedure, is fined $500 more than now, and that $500 goes to the establishment that caught the fake I.D.
Valentine said liquor law reforms “never end,” and no doubt there will be another liquor law bill filed in the 2014 Legislature.