This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Former radio personality Tom Barberi should send a bill to the state of Utah, cited by some conservative groups as the best-managed state in the nation.
Barberi was asked by then-incoming Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. in 2004 to be part of Huntsman's volunteer transition team and offer recommendations on improving the state's quirky liquor laws.
Besides the elimination of the private club requirements to get a drink in Utah, which Huntsman ushered through the Legislature in a revolutionary step toward liquor law normalization, Barberi recommended the part-time liquor regulatory commission be strengthened to have a better grip on operations and enforcement practices of the massive state monopoly. He also suggested that private retail outlets be commissioned to sell liquor in select areas of their stores to ease the burden on the 39 state-owned liquor stores.
The private club elimination was hailed as a major step forward and provided positive national publicity for Huntsman. But after he resigned as governor to become U.S. ambassador to China, the Legislature pushed back, passing several laws to further impede the alcohol industry in Utah.
After the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control suffered a series of scandals over the past year, the department commissioned consultant Bonneville Research for $100,000 to make recommendations. The report, by Bonneville's Bob Springmeyer, was well received and praised by legislators as comprehensive and innovative.
Many of its recommendations are similar to what Barberi said seven years ago for free, which was, by and large, ignored by the Legislature after Huntsman left.
Maybe now that the state is paying for it, legislators will heed the good advice offered by Bonneville.
Patrons strike back • While the state of Utah has received its share of criticism for its liquor laws, one Utah imbiber discovered a problem with the state's schizophrenic attempt to be a retailer and consumption controller at the same time that hasn't gotten a lot of publicity.
Our friendly imbiber lives in Provo, so rather than walk into one of the local liquor stores in Utah County with a paper bag over his head, he stopped at the Draper Liquor store on his way back from a trip to Salt Lake City.
By the time he got off the I-15 exit and made it to the store, he was experiencing a severe nature call. But when he asked the clerk if he could use the restroom, he got an emphatic no-nyet-nada-nein kind of an answer. Turns out that unlike most retail establishments, customers are never allowed to use the restroom at any state liquor store. He later learned from a regional manager for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that liquor boxes are stored in the back of the stores, near where the restroom is usually situated. So for security purposes, the public is kept out of those areas.
At the time, though, his situation was so desperate that he went outside and around to the back of the store where he relieved himself on the side of the building a sort of symbolic statement about Utah's retail liquor system in general.
Jefferson rolling in his grave • I have written about a certain group of Republican legislators attempting to turn themselves into action heros and calling themselves the Patrick Henry Caucus.
They constantly declare their allegiance to the "divinely inspired" U.S. Constitution and, like Patrick Henry, vow to protect that document against, well, against … liberals?
Here is a revelation for those guys. In his book The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States, scholar Gordon S. Wood cites an interesting observation about Patrick Henry, who, by the way, opposed ratifying the Constitution.
Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, Wood wrote he "had no doubt that all officials in government, even the popularly elected representatives in the lower houses of the legislatures, could act tyrannically," noting "173 despots would surely be as oppressive as one." But Jefferson, Wood wrote, "always thought that the people themselves, if undisturbed by demagogues like Patrick Henry (yes, our Patrick Henry), would eventually set matters right."