Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control commissioners on Friday extended a temporary ban on the sale of fortified wines in downtown liquor stores for one month after they were told down-and-out drinkers were heading to the suburbs.
Figures released to the commission showed a 114 percent increase in sales of the extra-strength and extra-cheap wines at the West Valley City store since the ban began July 1.The state liquor store in South Salt Lake reported a 77 percent increase over June sales; the Murray store, a 52 percent increase; and the Sugar House store, a 15 percent increase.
"Everything we said would happen has happened. They're relocating, they're bootlegging," said Dennis Kellen, operations manager for the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Department.
"Bootlegging," the illegal reselling of alcohol usually purchased in large quantities, is suspected to have caused the large increase in the sales of fortified wines at the West Valley City store.
The concerns surfaced when the commission first approved the temporary ban sought by member of Mayor Palmer DePaulis' Downtown Action Committee on Street Problems.
The mayor's committee wanted to find out whether banning the sale of wines fortified with potent grain alcohol and selling for less than $2 a fifth would curb downtown crime.
The commission agreed to ban the wines at three downtown liquor stores during July and August. The wines were to be put back on shelves on Sept. 1 and the results of the study were to be compiled by October.
The three downtown stores that stopped selling fortified wines as of July 1 are located at 205 W. Fourth South, 54 N. Eighth West and 1457 S. Main. The first two stores have seen a 23 percent increase in the sale of low-cost spirits such as vodka during the past month.
The extra month will allow the commission to review data on downtown crime being collected by police as well as hear the recommendations of the mayor's committee.