When it meets again in July, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Review Task Force probably will consider doing away with minibottles and brown-bagging, officials said Thursday.
But the issue, concerning one of Utah's most talked-about laws, is likely to face a lot of intense debate before it ever reaches the floor of Utah's House or Senate early next year.The task force is considering changes in the state's liquor laws based on responses to a questionnaire it distributed in April. At a meeting Wednesday, the panel released 377 letters it received and said it had as many as 150 more that hadn't been fully reviewed.
Ken Wynn, a task force member and director of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said that based on the "general themes" of the letters, most of the respondents appear to be drinkers.
The survey was published in newspapers, broadcast on television and radio and mailed in April to groups involved with alcohol issues.
The overwhelming consensus of the letters was that Utah's laws should be liberalized but that alcohol-related offenses still should be punished. Many said Utah should eliminate minibottles and brown-bagging and allow liquor to be sold by the drink as in other states.
Dennis Keller, operations manager for the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department, said Thursday the responses reinforce what many task force members already felt.
"The task force has pretty well discussed these issues to the extent they have formulated a direction they should go. The questionnaire supported their direction," he said.
Keller said he and other officials will spend most of the next two months writing proposed changes in the law for the task force to consider in July. Minibottles and brown-bagging appear to be likely victims of any reform.
"One alternative may be metered dispensing," Keller said. "That is, using a metering device that dispenses not more than one ounce at a time."
Minibottles contain 1 3/4 ounces of liquor. A metering device would make some mixed drinks less potent than they currently are.
Whatever is considered will be carefully weighed against the wishes of the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches its members to abstain from alcohol consumption, as well as the wishes of the other survey respondents, Keller said. Most state legislators are members of the LDS Church and will be watching carefully to see how church leaders respond to proposed changes.
Most of the people who responded to the survey also said they favor distributing liquor licenses according to market demand and extending hours for liquor sales, said Wynn.
Similar responses came from the Utah Tavern Association, along with a petition signed by more than 1,800 people.
"While that sounds like a group of people that want free-flowing liquor and a bar on every corner . . . they also wanted strict enforcement of liquor laws," Wynn said.