Some in Utah’s alcohol industry say last-minute amendment to bill will hurt business

Posted at 6:16 PM, Mar 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-11 23:40:55-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- On the surface, House Bill 228 seems like a victory for the state’s alcohol industry. The bill set up guidelines so that distilleries and breweries can provide tastings, but some local businesses say the bill is deceiving.

The bill passed during this most recent legislative session, and you would think Hive Winery owner Jay Yahne would be celebrating.

“When we first heard about this bill it had great intentions,” Yahne said.

However, Yahne says the bill that passed is not one that'll necessarily help his business. His biggest concern is an amendment added by the Senate, which says tastings can’t be seen by minors.

“The Zion Curtain is really kind of a dumb thing that was put in by non-drinkers to tell drinkers that their kids shouldn’t watch them drink, even though they’ll see them drink at a restaurant, they’ll see them drink at home, it makes no sense,” Yahne said.

The bill’s sponsor is Representative Gage Froerer, R-District 8, and he said he was not thrilled about the last-minute amendment.

“I actually had some concerns with that myself,” he told FOX 13 News.

However, Froerer says he did what he needed to do to get the bill passed.

“Nobody is going to get 100 percent of what they want with any legislation, and especially alcohol legislation,” Froerer said.

Another aspect of the bill is of big concern to James Fowler, the owner of Sugar House Distillery. He's worried about the requirement to serve food.

“You’ve seen my facility, it’s smaller," he said. "We’re set up to be a distillery, we’re not set up to be a restaurant."

The amount of food service required will be determined by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

“DABC is very clear on the position, which is a variety of food, but there is no intention of making these distilleries restaurants,” Froerer said.

Froerer says he’s ready to tweak the bill if the DABC makes these food requirements too strict.

At this point, the future of the bill lies in the hands of the governor.