DABC backs off “intent to dine” rule

Posted at 6:28 PM, Aug 27, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's liquor commission has backed away from a proposed rule that would have required customers to explicitly state an "intent to dine" before being served a drink at a restaurant.

The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to reject the proposed rule, which would have required servers or hosts to ask, "Do you intend to dine?" before being served an alcoholic beverage. It was proposed in response to a change in Utah liquor laws, which states customers must have an "intent" before getting a drink.

DABC staffers said walking into a restaurant, handing customers menus or even having signage was not enough to satisfy the law. But commissioners worried that in their attempt to clarify the law, they would just create more confusion.

"The law is going to get lost in the minutia and we really just don't need to have all of those things," said Commissioner Olivia Vela Agraz.

The Utah Restaurant Association, which opposed the law and fought the "intent to dine" rule, was happy it was rejected.

"We've never been happy with 'intent to dine,' " said Melva Sine, the group's president. "Because we believe that's why customers go into restaurants. That's why there are restaurants."

Sine said she believed restaurants would continue to "self-police." But some restaurants have already adopted their own, unique policies to satisfy the law.

At Cucina deli in Salt Lake City's Avenues neighborhood, servers make sure to ask if customers are "dining in."

"If not, they go through the counter," said general manager Connie Tedrow, motioning to the deli counter for takeout orders (where alcohol will not be served). "Pretty much right there we have intent on dining."

At some restaurants, cards have been printed telling customers to get their IDs out and that food must be ordered under Utah law.

Clark Williams, the owner of the Sagebrush Grill in Richfield, said even though the DABC rejected the rule -- he planned to ask for verbal intent, just in case.

"I think we're going to make sure that once a menu is placed on the table, that the customer intends to order from that menu and when they give us that 'OK,' then we'll serve them," he said.