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Ballot initiative on liquor in grocery, convenience stores won't go forward this year

Posted at 3:22 PM, Oct 04, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A citizen ballot initiative that sought to put wine and spirits on grocery and convenience store shelves and make other big changes to Utah liquor laws will not go forward.

Jeff Carter, the author of the "Citizens' Initiative to Amend and Modify Title 32B," told FOX 13 News on Wednesday he had decided to abandon it after running into problems securing funding to mount a campaign to gather signatures to qualify for the ballot and get it passed.

"As I come to find out, getting it funded fully to move forward was really the most difficult. I think the religious and political dogma of the past still haunts Utah, even though things have changed for the better," he said. "Who knows? Maybe some of the things I put in my initiative will take hold with the legislature, maybe they’ll think about some of this stuff on a business perspective and more consumer-friendly."

The initiative did a lot, starting with forcing the state to sell its liquor stores to private companies, leaving the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services as a wholesaler only. That would clear the way for wine and spirits to be sold in most retail stores under contracts with the state. The Title 32B initiative (named after the area of Utah law governing alcohol) also slashed the legally-mandated cost-plus 88% markup on liquor sales.

While the Utah Lt. Governor's Office found the amendment constitutional and initially gave the go-ahead to proceed with a campaign, Carter said he had trouble getting companies and alcohol distributors to sign on in support. Many of them had just been through alcohol policy initiatives in other states, while others preferred to continue to negotiate with the Utah State Legislature, he said. The initiative certainly faced opposition from social conservatives and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a powerful political and cultural institution that has historically resisted efforts to loosen Utah liquor laws.

Still, Carter was not too upset at having to halt the initiative. He told FOX 13 News he was proud it cleared initial hurdles and planned to watch the legislature this next session with an eye toward resurrecting it in 2025. He urged supporters of the initiative to not give up.

"I think many know it’s a long process and it’s a hard process and that to not have it go through or get as far as we wanted on the first go-round can happen," he said. "But I remain optimistic for 2025."