SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A bill to relax Utah’s liquor laws is receiving pushback from two very different groups: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and local brewers.
But reasons for the opposition on both sides are very different. Senate Bill 132 would allow alcoholic beverages with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 6% (4.8% alcohol by weight) to be sold in grocery and convenience stores, something not currently allowed in Utah.
But local brewers said Tuesday they oppose the measure in its current form, hoping for a complete lifting of sanctions on alcohol percentage allowed to be sold in stores other than the state-run liquor establishments.
“For our position, we would like to have anything we make available to any consumer at any time,” said Jon Lee, brewmaster at Squatters and Wasatch Brewery in Salt Lake City. For instance, one of their brands “Hop Rising” has a 9% ABV – it’s currently banned from being sold in convenience and grocery stores in Utah, but can be found at grocery stores in Nevada.
Local brewers said S.B. 132 only favors major brewers like Anheuser-Busch, whose lighter beer products are not as popular among consumers these days.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the state’s predominant faith, opposes S.B. 132 for different reasons. Some have cited concerns that increasing alcohol content sold to consumers at grocery stores will lead to more alcohol abuse. The church’s chief lobbyist Marty Stephens sent this statement to ABC4 News Monday:
The Church opposes Senate bill 132 in its current form. We, along with other community groups, oppose legislation which represents a fifty percent increase in alcohol content for beer sold in grocery and convenience stores.
The issue has ignited another debate about whether the faith should involve itself in certain issues on Utah’s Capitol Hill. The church does not influence voters about political candidates but does reserve the right to opine on issues like this one.
While local brewers, of course, disagree with the church, Lee said he’s hopeful S.B. 132 fails- so that in the future there can be a more progressive conversation on the sale of alcohol.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Jerry Stevenson (R-Layton) could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The measure passed a Senate Committee hearing Monday and is expected to head to the full Senate for a vote next week.