I have a better suggestion…The state of Utah should get out of the liquor business lock, stock, and barrel (and fifth).
My suggestion should be catnip to conservative Republicans who control the Legislature. They are always spouting off that government is inefficient and the free market better manages goods and services.
In the case of liquor, they are probably correct. Utah government (including lawmakers themselves) has turned alcohol management into a low-brow carnival.
Despite one of only two agencies that bring in money (rather than spending it) and despite starkly rising sales, the state of Utah cut funding. Money-making stores were closed even though the state is stuck with paying existing leases on empty buildings.
Licenses were unavailable, causing numerous chain restaurants to stop expansion plans in Utah. A law was passed forcing new restaurants to wall off bar areas so patrons could not see a server pour or mix a drink. Commercial developers cited that the law cost the state an estimated 3,000 new jobs and left large vacancies in business centers and strip malls.
The liquor agency director overlooked legal bidding procedures, allowing his son’s private business to procure the profitable packaging business. An out-of-state customer was allowed to purchase a sizeable liquor order using a credit card, even though local restaurant owners and clubs are forbidden to place orders with cards – and then the card was never processed.
No, the state liquor folks and the lawmakers who pass the laws will never be honored with a CPA organization’s Good Practices Award. This is what happens when people try to manage something they know little or nothing about.
Having teetotalers run a liquor operation is like having a bunch of English majors operate NASA – or letting non-readers choose the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.
Granted, alcohol abuse has societal cost. A study last week estimated that excessive drinking in the U.S. had a $224 million price tag. But what has the Legislature done to minimize alcohol abuse? Lawmakers stupidly passed a law favoring clubs, where drinkers can get “hammered” on cocktails without having to order food.
It is unseemly that voters who abhor alcohol have no problem profiting from it. Several legislators – all Republicans – have suggested that the state evaluate letting private enterprise distribute and sell liquor. Utah can continue to tax it and even establish hours of sales, but let Smith’s and Harmon’s sell the cabernet sauvignon for dinner.
My local grocer is more knowledgeable (and accountable) than a state senator who thinks “single malt” is a product on the Arctic Circle menu.