SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers discussed but appeared to have no problems with a proposed change to state liquor laws designed to attract national chains to Utah.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, wants to create a "master" license that a company could obtain to cover all of its restaurants rather than having to get permits for each one. He said it would remove the uncertainty for big chains as to whether liquor licenses would be available under Utah's quota system. It also would make more licenses available.

"There's no economic advantage in holding a master license other than you gain predictability on your expansion plans," he told the Business and Labor Interim Committee on Wednesday.

Valentine didn't seek any action on the bill but wanted the committee to see it before he introduces it when the Legislature convenes in January. No one spoke against the measure.

Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, called it a step in the right direction to enhance economic development opportunities in the state.

Not knowing whether permits would be available has kept some national chains from expanding to Utah.

As of Tuesday, there were 32 full-service and 45 limited-service restaurant licenses available, according to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation to increase the number of restaurant liquor permits.

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Valentine called that a stopgap measure for a longer term problem. The master license option, he said, would help solve the possibility of future license shortages.

Under Valentine's bill, a master full-service restaurant license would cost $1,500 plus a separate $2,200 fee for each location. Under state law, a full-service restaurant may offer liquor, wine and beer.

A master limited-service license would cost $750 plus a separate $825 fee for each location. Limited-service restaurants may only offer wine and beer.


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