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Utah’s liquor bill would raise alcohol prices, permit more licenses

Vin 7000, a new wine club located in Park City, brings small batch wines to the consumer.
Vin 7000
Vin 7000, a new wine club located in Park City, brings small batch wines to the consumer.

Utah lawmakers have officially introduced this year's omnibus liquor bill. The bill would increase the cost of liquor, wine and beer.

Utah has a big bill every year to amend alcohol laws. If passed, this year’s HB 548 will have Utahns paying more for liquor, wine and beer.

The state markup on alcohol would increase by half a percent. Liquor and wine would be marked up 88.5% and heavy beer would be marked up 67%. It’s unclear how much more revenue these markups would provide the state or how noticeable they will be to consumers.

The bill would also allow for wider alcohol consumption at airports. Right now, only airlines can get public service permits allowing people to walk around the area with alcohol, basically airport lounges. The change would allow other entities to operate hospitality rooms where people can move around with beverages.

The legislation would also increase the number of liquor licenses the state can issue. Right now, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services can permit a liquor license for every 10,200 residents in the state. But over the next seven years, that number will continue to decrease. Starting in July, the department can give out a license for every 9,778 residents. By 2031, the department will give out a license for every 7,246 residents.

The bill would also create three law enforcement positions dedicated to alcohol law compliance to mitigate social impact. These compliance officers would make sure liquor licensees are following state codes.

The place of last drink program would also be established to balance alcohol access and safety. “Place of last drink” references the last place a person consumed alcohol before an alcohol-related traffic stop. The program documents patterns and aims to pinpoint bars and restaurants frequently involved. However, similar programs in other states haven’t found any direct correlations between DUIs and the place of last drink.

The bill still needs to be sent to the House and Senate floors for debate.