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House panel questions bill on alcohol distilleries

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 12:23 p.m. MDT

In this May 29, 2012 file photo, bottles of Ogden's Own Distillery Five Wives Vodka are stocked at a state liquor store in Salt Lake City. A bill proposing to treat alcohol distilleries in Utah the same as wineries and breweries ran dry in a House committee Wednesday. (Brian Skoloff, Associated Press) In this May 29, 2012 file photo, bottles of Ogden's Own Distillery Five Wives Vodka are stocked at a state liquor store in Salt Lake City. A bill proposing to treat alcohol distilleries in Utah the same as wineries and breweries ran dry in a House committee Wednesday. (Brian Skoloff, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill proposing to treat alcohol distilleries in Utah the same as wineries and breweries ran dry in a House committee Wednesday.

Members of the House Business and Labor Committee didn't want to expand a state law governing those outlets because they say it's confusing and flawed. The law doesn't address distilleries.

"The current statute needs to be fixed then it could be more equitably applied," said Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville.

Jim Conlin, the owner of Ogden's Own Distillery, told the committee he wants to offer alcohol samples to customers like the law allows wineries and breweries to do.

"We're not looking to create a bar on our facility. We run a small little liquor store," he told the committee.

Committee members had questions about how much alcohol goes into a sample and how many samples may be offered, if and what kind of food must be served with the samples, how the law distinguishes sampling from selling and whether minors are allowed in distilleries.

"I'm having a hard time following the rationale of the current law," Dunnigan said.

Bill sponsor Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said HB352 wasn't intended to address the law but simply to put distilleries on equal footing with wineries and breweries. People go to distilleries to sample the products, not to drink or eat, he said.

"This is strictly a business bill. Should a distillery have same rights as a winery or brewery?" he asked.

Conlin told the committee members he was offended that they would punish his business due to what they see as a bad law.

"All I'm asking for is equitable treatment," he said.

Rep. Larry Wiley, D-West Valley City, said he found it frustrating that his colleagues had so many questions about something that's no big deal.

"I applaud your effort trying to legalize adulthood in Utah," he told Froerer.

After nearly 90 minutes of discussion, the committee voted 9-6 to put the bill on hold.

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