Restaurants should not be bars, a member of the citizen panel that drafted Utah's liquor reform law testified at a hearing on state regulations that would allow drinking in restaurant waiting areas.
Gayle Judd was one of two members of the Citizens' Council on Alcoholic Beverage Control who questioned whether the proposed state regulations violated the intent of the law at the Tuesday hearing.But the council's chairman, Stanley Altman, told state Alcoholic and Beverage Control Department officials the law was not intended to stop restaurant customers from drinking before they sit down for their meal.
Altman, however, suggested amending the regulations to require that servers keep track of how much a customer drinks in a waiting area and pass that information along to the meal server.
The comments made at the hearing will be discussed by the state Liquor Commission at its regular meeting on Thursday. Commissioners could approve the regulations at that meeting, although they would not become effective until after the June 2 deadline for written comments.
The regulations specify what restaurants must do to comply with the changes in the state liquor law that went into effect April 25. The law received the most attention for allowing minibottles and wine to be brought directly to a customer's table, although it also requires restaurants to keep tabs on how much their customers drink.
Judd and fellow council member Robert Leake both proposed changes to the portion of the regulation attempting to define what lawmakers meant when they said drinks could only be consumed at a customer's table.
The regulations allow drinks to be consumed "within a reasonable proximity to a customer's table," a phrase interpreted to permit drinking in restaurant waiting areas.
"Restaurants should not be bars, and that is exactly what we make them when we serve alcoholic beverages at tables in the waiting areas," Judd told department officials at the hearing.
"The intent of the bill was to serve alcoholic beverages with the consumption of a meal at the dining table as an improved health measure," she said, adding that eating while imbibing lessens intoxication.
Department Director Ken Wynn asked Judd whether her view was the position of the council.
"It depends on which citizen's council member is speaking," Judd answered, adding that discussion on the issue was postponed at the council's last meeting.
The council's next meeting is scheduled for June 1, the day before the deadline for written comments on the regulations.
Others in the audience of more than 50 restaurateurs and tourism officials had positive comments about the regulations.