A temporary ban on the downtown sale of so-called fortified wines was extended through June 1989 and imposed at the state liquor store in Murray Tuesday by the Utah Commission on Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Sales of the inexpensive alcohol favored by the down-and-out had been scheduled to resume on Sept. 1, following a two-month study of how its availability affects downtown crime.Commissioners decided last month to wait for additional information from the city and the police before deciding when to lift the ban. On Tuesday, they followed a recommendation to stretch the study for a full year.
That means that the ban on low-cost wines made extra-strong with the addition of grain alcohol will continue through June 30, 1989, at the state liquor stores at 205 W. Fourth South, 54 N. Eighth West and 1457 S. Main.
And as of Oct. 3, fortified wines will also be banned at the state liquor store in Murray, 5140 S. State St., even though the store was not part of the initial study.
Commissioners were told that the number of public-intoxication arrests in Murray has climbed from 27 in July and August 1987 to 41 during the same two-month period this year.
In Salt Lake City, arrests for public intoxication during July and August in 1988 were up slightly over arrests during those months in 1987, despite the ban having been in effect both months.
The ban, and the extension, were sought by Mayor Palmer DePaulis' Action Committee on Downtown Street Problems as a way to help curb crime related to drinking and ease the concerns of downtown business owners and residents.
Critics of the ban have said that it will only move the drinkers to the fringes of the city or force them to switch to low-priced spirits, such as vodka that are even more potent than fortified wines.
Area business owners spoke Tuesday in support of the yearlong ban, calling the changes they have seen in the downtown "the difference between night and day."
Real estate broker Mike Donovan said the porch outside his office at 343 S. Second West had been a haven for drinkers and that he called the police for help removing them at least three or four times a week before the ban.
"I haven't found anyone drunk or unconscious on my steps since the ban started," Donovan told commissioners, adding that he has had to summon the police only once in the past four months.
Three Murray officials, however, expressed concern about the number of downtown drinkers who have taken a bus to the state liquor store at 5140 S. State St., which still sells fortified wine.
Murray Mayor Lavar McMillan and two officials of the Murray City Police Department said the drinkers are now hanging around a city park across the street from the liquor store.
McMillan suggested that fortified wine be banned countywide, saying that the beverage has no redeeming value. But Dennis Kellen, operations manager for the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Department, asked where to draw the line.