Bill takes step to normalize Utah's liquor laws

Associated Press/February 19, 2009

A bill was introduced in the Legislature on Thursday that takes a step toward normalizing Utah's much-criticized liquor laws in an effort to boost the state's $6-billion-a-year tourism industry as the state economy struggles amid a global economic crisis.

The proposal would eliminate Utah's unique private club system by requiring bars to electronically scan the IDs of anyone who looks younger than 30.

Information from the ID - including name, birth date, gender, driver's license number and expiration date - would be stored on bars' scanners for 48 hours.

The scanning proposal is seen as an attempt at compromise with many in the state who shun alcohol and say that requiring someone to pay a fee and fill out an application before entering a bar reduces underage drinking and driving under the influence.

Utah is the only state in the country that considers its bars private clubs, even though they're open to the public. It is also the only state that prohibits bartenders in restaurants from serving cocktails directly over the counter. A glass partition dubbed a "Zion Curtain" typically separates customers from servers in restaurant bars.

The proposal from Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, would eliminate both requirements.

His bill also calls for banning minors from sitting at the bar in restaurants in an effort to appease lawmakers who have said that chain eateries are much too similar to bars and are glamorizing alcohol.

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