Salt Lake County officials, armed with a legal opinion upholding their decision to allow modified beer-company signs in the Salt Palace arena, are poised to fend off complaints that the signs violate Utah law.
The Utah PTA has joined the non-profit Alcohol Policy Coalition in asking that the signs be taken down. The groups say the ads violate the intent of a provision in Utah's liquor law banning billboard and scoreboard advertising of alcoholic beverages.Dr. George Van Komen, Alcohol Policy Coalition chairman, decried advertising as "one of the most pernicious enticers for our youth to use alcohol."
However, county attorneys believed the controversy was resolved weeks ago after they and the Utah Attorney General's Office agreed that advertising of corporate names was within the law.
Based on that opinion, county commissioners last month approved an amended contract with Coors Brewing Co. Salt Palace scoreboard signs covered with black plastic for six weeks because they violated the law by advertising beer products were taken down and replaced with the new ones.
But when commissioners received complaints from the PTA and Alcohol Policy Coalition earlier this month, they again asked the attorney's office to "review this matter and make a recommendation."
Deputy County Attorney Gavin Anderson, in an opinion scheduled for presentation to the commission on Monday, repeated his earlier stand that the new signs are legal.
He would not comment on whether the commission's action is good policy, telling commissioners, "such decisions are left to the appropriate policymaking authorities."
Commissioner Bart Barker, whose duties include Salt Palace oversight, said the commission requested the second legal review, "just to make sure we're on sound legal footing."
While he said he hadn't reviewed the matter, "I don't see us doing anything differently on it. It's more informational."
PTA President Pat Hales, in a letter to the Salt Palace and Fine Arts Advisory Board, said the decision permitting the new signs "makes a mockery of the legislation.
"Even though they technically do not advertise beer, the implication is crystal clear," she said. "Please don't continue to allow these impressions on young minds."
Hales warned county officials the PTA "will continue to see to it that the intent of the legislation is carried out."