Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Update: Private Clubs Closer to Death

[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)


  1. First off, thanks for keeping us posted on the latest status with respect to the changes in liquor law; it's not like there's an abundance of clearinghouses where we could learn about our recent governmental control in public affairs. We shouldn't have to rely only on reporters and bloggers for this kind of information. This implicit secrecy in governmental change and legislative decisions is all part of the larger problem.

    Second, the basic premise behind abolishing the whole private club concept is to streamline liquor laws so that Utah has a competitive chance to acquire tourist dollars (away from CO, NV, ID, WY, AZ, and CA). Adding yet another level of complexity to an already unjustified set of convoluted laws is a horrible idea. In fact, the only way that adding a 5th license class would be good is if all current beer taverns and private clubs were "allowed" to change their status and then actually did so. This way the 3rd and 4th classes would still technically be on the books, but only in a vestigial sense. Is this what would happen? Perhaps this is what they have in mind, and if so, then I'm all for it. I would like nothing more than to be able to go down to my local beer tavern and order a "real" beer like a "real" adult, but for some reason I'm skeptical that it would actually happen.

    What we really need is for the DABC commissioners to draft a completely new and simplified set of liquor laws based on input from the public and the successes/failures of other states. I'm all for vice taxation (especially petroleum tax), but we need fewer of the confusing and unjustified laws on the books rather than more.

  2. Extremely well put! Such clear thinking is sadly absent, it seems, with the DABC and Utah law.

  3. You're all nuts. Utah liquor laws won't change. Do you really think the mormon church, which controls Utah, will change its position? It won't because it will be a step down in it's overall control. It needs to have its finger on the control button, and any new liquor laws will mean a removal of that finger.


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