SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out against legislation Monday to allow the sale of heavy beer in Utah stores.
"The church opposes SB132 in its current form. We, along with other community groups, oppose legislation which represents a 50 percent increase in alcohol content for beer sold in grocery and convenience stores," Marty Stephens, director of government relations for the church, said in a statement.
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, introduced a bill last week to raise the alcohol content by weight from 3.2 percent to 4.8 percent for beer in Utah stores. The Senate Business and Labor Committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the Senate floor for consideration.
Stevenson said of the church that he would be "disappointed if they viewed it differently." He said he doesn't know how the church's opposition will impact the bill but he thinks it can pass in the Senate. He has yet to get a House sponsor.
The state has been grappling with the issue for the past two years as national breweries phase out the production of 3.2 percent beer.
Utah is one of only two states left selling the lower weight beer after laws in Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas have or will change in the next few months. The proposed law would still leave Utah with the lowest alcohol content for beer.
Last month, Walmart launched a campaign urging customers to lobby Utah lawmakers to make full-strength beer available in stores.45 comments on this story
The retail giant is part of a group retailers, beer manufacturers and distributors, and trade associations calling itself the Responsible Beer Choice Coalition that is lobbying the Utah Legislature to raise the alcohol content for beer sold in grocery and convenience stores. The group has called the proposed change "modest."
Only 1.8 percent of all beer brewed in the United States is 3.2 percent beer, with Oklahoma consuming 56 percent of it, followed by Utah at 29 percent. Utahns represent less than one-half of a percent of beer drinkers in the U.S.
As state laws change, national brewers have to decide whether to continue what would be a specialty item for a shrinking market. Some products from major beer brewers, including Coors and Budweiser, are already disappearing from Utah shelves.