Senate passes bill allowing higher alcohol beer at grocery stores, but the House may not be eager to pass it

Beer Store

The Senate passed a bill allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell beer with a higher alcohol content on Tuesday morning. However, the prospects for the bill’s passage in the House are murky at best.

SB132 permits grocery and convenience stores to sell beer with 4.8 percent alcohol content. Currently, they’re only allowed to sell 3.2 beer. However, breweries are phasing out their production of 3.2 beer as many states are allowing suds with higher alcohol content.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, the sponsor of the bill has painted the bill as a measure to enhance commerce in the state. Many retail establishments fear they will lose money because of declining product availability.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints announced their opposition to the move earlier during the 2019 session.

The Senate passed the bill by a 27-2 vote.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R- Kaysville, said Tuesday morning that there’s a big part of the bill that’s been getting short shrift in the debate.

“Nobody is talking about how we are mitigating the social cost of having beer that’s 50% stronger more accessible to minors. We’re not talking about how we’re going to deal with increased alcoholism that may result from this,” said Wilson

Wilson is no stranger to alcohol legislation. Two years ago he sponsored the omnibus bill that modernized the state’s alcohol laws, mostly by removing the so-called “Zion Curtain” from bars and restaurants.

Wilson says he’s worried there’s not enough time left in the 2019 session to have the kind of debate this issue deserves, especially with so many other substantive issues left for lawmakers to deal with.

“We’re having a conversation that’s very one-sided right now. I understand that part of this is driven by worry about how retailers can remain relevant, but I’m very uncomfortable not discussing the societal impact, which is a very important piece,” said Wilson.