Two Senate bills could change how you purchase liquor in Utah

Local Politics

UTAH (ABC4) – Two bills in the Utah Senate could change how you purchase alcohol.

One of those bills, Senate Bill 119, aims to make it legal for Utah bars and restaurants to sell alcohol as a to-go option.

Sponsored by Sen. Derek Kitchen (D-Salt Lake), S.B. 119 would allow Utahns to purchase sealed alcoholic beverages from the bars and restaurants via curbside pickup and deliveries.

Current Utah law restricts the purchase of alcohol to only inside stores.

In a Jan. 21 tweet, Sen. Kitchen says the bill aims to help bars and restaurants forced into a “new model of operating” by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID pandemic has fundamentally changed the way restaurants operate — in order to survive, most had to change their business model to accommodate take-out & delivery,” Sen. Kitchen says. “The problem is that many restaurants rely on beer, wine, and liquor sales to make ends meet. Unfortunately, under Utah law, restaurants are unable to sell alcohol with this new model of operating.”

This isn’t the first time Sen. Kitchen has brought this change to the forefront.

In July, he and Representative Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City) asked then-Governor Gary Herbert in a letter to use his executive powers to make it easier for Utahns to get their groceries, which for some, might include beer.

Kitchen and Briscoe said they made the request after an 85-year-old constituent explained that he appreciated having his groceries delivered but would like to order beer as well.

A Salt Lake City bar, Quarters Arcade Bar, also called on Gov. Herbert to consider giving businesses more flexibility to adapt and allow the sale of “to-go beer & cocktails.”

Owner Katy Willis told ABC4 that selling to-go alcohol would be a game changer.

“When we were closed we don’t have a kitchen, so we didn’t have any availability to make money,” said Willis.

Utah’s state liquor regulator also wanted to implement curbside pickup and online sales of alcohol but said they needed funds from the Legislature.

“Can we ensure that the safeguards are in place?” said Republican Rep. Timothy Hawkes, who handles liquor legislation for the House majority, in November. “But yeah, we’ve got to make sure our systems align with what consumers expect and demand.”

Utah remains one of the most restrictive states about alcohol in the country.

Still, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control deputy director Cade Meier said in November that he is confident that curbside and online alcohol purchasing would be implemented in the state.

“We think it will be a very customer friendly, but at the same time being a responsible way, for us to accomplish our mission,” Meier said.

A second bill, Senate Bill 59, would create a program to allow customers to buy liquor from third parties through the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Utahns could then pick up that liquor at a local state liquor store.

S.B. 59 passed a second reading in the Utah Senate on Jan. 25. It is now moving on to a third reading in the Senate.

S.B. 119, allowing the sale of to-go alcohol, remains in the Senate.

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 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...