- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 17, 2009

SALT LAKE CITY | Utah may have made recent strides to streamline its quirky liquor laws, but one booze-related oddity isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

The state liquor board is controlled by teetotalers and it appears the situation will stay that way.

Gov. Gary Herbert made his nominations for two spots on the five-member panel this week without asking whether the candidates had ever had a sip of alcohol. In addition, neither nominee has worked in a bar or a restaurant.

“He looked for qualities such as potential appointees’ experience and ability to contribute positively to the commission and the state,” said Angie Welling, a spokeswoman for Mr. Herbert.

One nominee, Dr. Richard Sperry, an anesthesiologist, said he does not drink. Businessman Jeff Wright declined to comment.

Only one of the three current board members drinks alcoholic beverages.

Control of the liquor board by those who don’t use the products they regulate has long frustrated bar and restaurant owners in this heavily Mormon state.

“I’ve always said it’s like hiring a lifeguard that doesn’t know how to swim,” said Dave Morris, owner of the Irish pub Piper Down and a leader in the bar industry’s Utah Hospitality Association.

“You don’t know what it’s like to work in the industry; you don’t know what we have to deal with,” he said. “Then somebody puts you in charge of it? It definitely doesn’t make much sense.”

Dr. Sperry said he wasn’t sure how his name came up as a nominee. He said Mr. Herbert didn’t interview him, although someone on the governor’s staff did.

“It’s true that when it comes to … the alcohol distribution business and consumption of alcohol, I’m probably not as knowledgeable as I ought to be; and so one of my personal goals is to come up to speed and understand the business and the things that I perhaps don’t understand now,” Dr. Sperry said.

He said he believes in as little government interference as possible, but he is concerned about issues such as driving under the influence, underage consumption and overconsumption.

Mr. Wright is a founder and member of the board of directors of Struck/Axiom Creative Inc., which holds a state contract to promote tourism.

He said he met with Mr. Herbert, and their discussion focused on economic development. Mr. Wright declined to provide details.

“I think that the governor certainly wanted a balance and a business perspective and certainly someone who knew something about economic development and travel and tourism,” he said. “We saw eye to eye on those issues.”

Utah’s liquor laws have long befuddled travelers and newcomers to the state. Only since July has it been legal for someone to walk into a bar without first filling out an application and paying a fee to become a member of what was technically a private club.

Utah bars must scan the IDs of anyone who appears younger than 35 and keep a record of who walked through their doors for a week so law enforcement can inspect it.

Bartenders must be hidden from view in newly built restaurants, an effort that Utah lawmakers say is necessary to keep children from wanting to drink alcohol. It’s also illegal to make a cocktail a double.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide