Drinkers Wanted: Bill Would Require Imbibers on Utah Alcohol Commission

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Happy hours and kegs are against the law in Utah. But the state may soon make drinking a necessity — at least for one government job.

A new state bill would require two drinking members on Utah’s five-member Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. And the proposal doesn’t stop there—the two alcohol-enjoying appointees would actually have to sign affidavits, swearing that they have consumed alcohol in the year prior to their commission service.

The move seems a surprise for a state with notoriously tough drinking laws. Yet a product-regulation board that does not consider actual consumers would be unfair, argues the bill’s author, State Rep. Brian Doughty. Zero social drinkers served on the 77-year-old commission until non-Mormon Vicki McCall joined in 1992, and only one other has served in the 20 years since.

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Utah’s laundry list of liquor laws remains untouched—it is still illegal to “get drunk” in Utah, “Zion-curtain” laws require establishments to veil alcohol from public view, and many stores only sell beer under a 4% alcohol limit. If servers fail to scan ID for anyone who appears younger than 35, the punishment is the same as serving alcohol to a minor—even if the consumer is over 21.

The state’s strict alcohol prohibitions stem in large part from ties with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Drinking is not allowed for Mormons, who comprise nearly 60% of Utah’s population. Yet drinking demographics are certainly changing. The ratio of Mormons to non-Mormons in the state is slowly shrinking, and one 2010 legislative report finds that gallons of liquor consumed in Utah from 2001-2009 rose 54%, more than double the rate of the state’s population growth during the same period.

If the proposal goes through, the only question is how to celebrate. Fear not, teetotalers — there’s a bottle of alcohol-free whisky with your name on it.

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