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Utah bars, lawmakers push for change to liquor laws amid pandemic

Posted at 10:50 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 00:50:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Many people in Salt Lake City and beyond are hoping to influence lawmakers to change several current liquor laws to help local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are two specific things being targeted by businesses that they are hoping to change: One, to allow for curbside pickup or delivery of beer from grocery stores, and two, to-go mixed drinks from bars.

State Sen. Derek Kitchen addressed the first one by sending a letter to the governor over the weekend, as well as tweeting: “Many constituents have shifted their grocery shopping behavior and we need to allow beer pickup & delivery to accommodate."

Bars and restaurants around SLC have also started speaking out on the second of those two wishes, one of them being Quarters Bar and Arcade.

“This is kind of something I’m just jumping into because I thought that I would be able to eventually just operate in a way that I could at least just break even, but that’s seeming less and less likely,” Quarters owner Katy Willis said. “However, it needs to get done through the legislature or through executive order from Governor Herbert.”

Quarters has been struggling through the pandemic, and the owners say this would be a big step to help their bottom line.

Utah lawmakers aren’t as eager to make the change, however.

“This really would be a major policy move,” Rep. Timothy Hawkes said. “I’ve been involved in the alcohol policy space for about 2 1/2 years now, and curbside delivery, for example, has been a hot button topic throughout the entire time.”

Hawkes is the house leader on liquor regulation laws and he has his concerns over some of the proposals.

“Most people that are thoughtful about alcohol policy would see how it’s problematic to see how basically somebody could drive up and pick up a mixed drink to go,” Hawkes said.

He did, however, say that further talks on tough legislation like this are helpful.

“The more difficult the policy, the more important it is to get all the stakeholders around the table,” Hawkes said.

Bars are trying to come up with creative ways to make the proposed idea safe. Quarters' owners said it would be a sealed container — “Basically the same situation if you were to buy a canned cocktail at the liquor store," Willis said.

This is ultimately about helping bars' bottom lines and an innovative solution to help solve the issues they are facing.

“Giving us the ability to be creative with how we make money, because if we’re not making money, a loan doesn't matter if we can’t pay it back," Willis said. "It isn’t for people who feel comfortable coming to a bar, it’s for people that don’t feel comfortable.”