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Alcohol Awareness

April is alcohol awareness month, a once-yearly event promoted by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. With that in mind, it’s worthwhile to review some of the policy changes from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

One of the biggest changes came earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival when enforcement was cranked up for a little-followed rule. Patrons who show up at a restaurant that serves alcohol may not be served booze until they order food.

Sounds simple, but undercover officers were suspending liquor licenses because they were served alcoholic beverages before they had put in a food request. The penalty can be a fine up to $3,000 and license suspension of up to a month. Getting hit with a suspension, especially during a popular event like Sundance, would seriously impact the profitability of any business that served alcohol.

The law clearly states: “…a restaurant licensee may not sell, offer for sale, or furnish an alcoholic product except in connection with an order for food prepared, sold, and furnished at the licensed premises." Some businesses would simply ask, while taking a drink order, if patrons intended to eat at the restaurant – not meeting the letter of the law. Food must be ordered first (or simultaneously).

Under pressure from restaurant owners, the state legislature passed a bill allowing beverage orders before food orders – a modification of the law – and Governor Herbert signed it into law on April 1st. The change will take effect in mid May of this year. Patrons will still have to order food or signal their intent to eat at the restaurant. It is unclear what would happen if someone said they would be eating, got their drink and slurped it up, and then changed their mind.

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