Chanting slogans and carrying signs, a group of students from around the state sought support Wednesday for legislation that would move so-called "alcohol-pops" to state liquor stores shelves.
"They display them in a way that makes it look like it isn't alcohol, " said Megan Urbanik, a student at Pinnacle Canyon High School in Price. Urbanik said she believed it was wrong to sell the flavored malt beverages in stores where minors can shop.
She was one of about 90 other members of the Governing Youth Council of Utah at the Capitol for the rally, a group committed to encouraging students to stay free from alcohol, tobacco and drugs and live a healthy lifestyle.
Liz Ferguson, a prevention specialist from Price who accompanied the students, said the group chose the legislation they wanted to support.
"I've been doing this for almost 10 years and this is one of the biggest groups we've had come up here," Ferguson said.
SB211, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, would treat flavored malt beverages such as Mike's Hard Lemonade as liquor and "hard" beer. State law only allows low-alcohol beer to be sold outside of state liquor stores.
For years, though, the flavored malt beverages have been available in grocery and convenience stores. The state is taking another look at the beverages after complaints they were being marketed to underage drinkers by making them look and even taste like soda pop.
"I believe it's been a technical violation," Bramble said of the way the flavored malt beverages have been sold. That's because even though they start as beer, the products are flavored with distilled spirits.
He said his bill will clear up any ambiguity in the law that may have been exploited in the past. "This bill will clearly define what's allowed in the grocery store and what's sold in the liquor store," Bramble said.
Bramble said SB211 isn't intended to do away with flavored malt beverages but to limit access to them, especially for underage drinkers. Opponents of the measure have argued the products will be too expensive because of the markup required in state liquor stores and that a lack of refrigeration in the state stores could pose storage problems.
But Bramble said he plans to amend his bill to use the additional revenue from selling flavored malt beverages in state liquor stores, estimated as high as $1.7 million annually, for alcohol abuse treatment and prevention programs aimed at those too young to legally drink.The students at Wednesday's rally also backed another bill, HB247. That bill, sponsored by House Minority Whip David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, would make protective orders applicable to dating relationships.