[Booze News] Walking into a Utah bar without being stopped for membership fees and personal details came one step closer today at the end of the monthly UDABC Commission meeting.
Commissioner Mary Ann Mantes proposed adding a fifth classification to the current four-tier system. Class E would cover social clubs with no membership required. Would-be licensees would have to pay 25 percent more than the current initial license fee of $2,750 under Mantes’ proposal, which she issued as a first step “in beginning to structure a law that gains support of the legislature as well as a few groups opposed to non-membership.” Penalties on violations would also carry an additional 25 percent increase on fines.
Mantes wrote in an explanation of her proposal that the additional fee paid by licensees could be used for “increased scrutiny and oversight,” which might include hiring additional compliance officers. After the hearing, she said she proposed more oversight, “because MADD and others are concerned [no longer requiring membership] will cause more drinking.” Clubs who took the class E route, would, she added, be held to a slightly higher standard that membership bars.
She suggested a two-to-three year trial period for the new law to “allay fears of MADD, the Legislature, other “Anti” groups. That way, “if it turns out to be a disaster (which it won’t), the law change goes away,” she wrote.
Quite how many of the current 244 license holders would switch from D to E if this proposal, or something similar, were to become law is hard to gauge. The two recent public hearings on the issue saw a minority of bar owners advocating for membership to continue. Mantes’ proposal includes that the class D social club with membership stay on the books.
For Mantes, such a change “is worth a try in the interest of economic development.” Her fellow commissioner, Gordon Strachan, asked where all this would leave tourists. In a class E social club, Mantes replied, “They’d just walk in.”
UDABC Regulatory director Earl Dorius quickly jumped in to point out his staff had already been brain-storming approaches to this issue in the wake of the public hearings.
“I’m presenting this today to see if we can get something going,” Mantes said. (Stephen Dark)