SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services is moving quickly to allow the sale of mini-bottles in the state.
At a meeting of an advisory board on Tuesday attended by FOX 13 News, an administrative rule was advanced that clears the way for the bottles to return to the state after decades of being gone.
"This new rule expressly authorizes the department to purchase and store and sell as small as 50 ml bottles of spiritous liquor and as small as 187 ml bottles of wine," said Angela Micklos, the DABS' director of licensing and compliance.
In an interview with FOX 13 News, DABS Executive Director Tiffany Clason said the rule would allow them to be sold in state-run liquor stores. She said support for mini sales has been strong.
"Utah is one of the only states that does not sell in retail operations, 50 ml bottles," she said. "The commission has heard a lot of support from private business owners, also in high tourist areas of visitorship, rural areas of Utah where, when people are visiting, they would prefer to have smaller format sizes."
Right now, Utah only allows hotels and airlines to sell mini-bottles. In the 1970s and '80s, Utah sold mini-bottles in bars. Customers would have to buy them and pour them as part of a mixed cocktail, said DABS Commissioner Thomas Jacobson. As a liquor control state, bars and restaurants now pour alcoholic drinks using metered shots (minis would not be allowed to be sold in bars or restaurants).
Mini-bottles are not illegal in Utah, but efforts to allow for their sale have failed in the past. Earlier this year, the Utah State Legislature signaled it would stay out of the matter and allow the DABS to decide whether or not to allow the sale. The DABS is proposing mini-bottle sales as an administrative rule, which will essentially have the same effect as law.
Jacobson said he has heard of people who use alcohol for cooking and don't want a full bottle of wine or a spirit in their cabinet. DABS customers in touristy areas have complained of being forced to buy a whole bottle when all they want is one drink.
"People who want to travel someplace... but don’t want to bring a lot so they don’t want to over-consume. There’s a lot we’re hearing as to the benefits of it," he said.
But alcohol abuse prevention advocates raised concerns in Tuesday's meeting about ease of access, litter and youth getting their hands on the tiny bottles.
"The concept of mini-bottles in using them to be able to conceal alcohol," said Robert Timmerman, an alcohol abuse prevention specialist who serves on the board. "Certainly a concern on underage drinking as well."
Timmerman voted against the rule. It passed the advisory board 4-1. The rule was amended to require that distillers and brewers who are allowed to sell out of their businesses can only sell a full case of mini-bottles.
The next step will be for the full DABS Commission to consider the rule and vote on it, which could happen as early as next week. If the commissioners support it, a public comment period will commence and the rule will be formally published.
If there are no issues, the rule could be adopted and consumers can purchase mini-bottles as soon as this fall.