The amended bill, passing on an 8-to-2 vote, calls for a two-year test program, with select stores in high-tourism areas to remain open on holidays.
But Anna Kay Waddoups said opening liquor stores on holidays would result in more drunken driving. She said that even if the pilot program "doesn't cause too many more problems," it could then be expanded to include more store openings on even more holidays.
"I come before you today as a victim of a drunk driver," she said. "Anytime you have a pilot program, you think something will be successful [and] it will be difficult to pull back."
On Feb. 14, 2001, Waddoups was seriously injured when a suspected drunk driver slammed into her car as it sat idling at a stop light on North Temple in downtown Salt Lake City. The suspect, Mark McKnight Oroszi, had been charged in 27 other cases for alcohol-related offenses and has been in and out of jail in a revolving door of arrest-and-release dating back to the 1990s. He has yet to answer charges in the Waddoups crash.
The bill, which now goes to the full House for consideration, does not include the Utah holiday of Pioneer Day, July 24, among the exclusions. The day commemorates the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. Although some 19th century Mormons were known to imbibe, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long discouraged its members from drinking alcohol.
It's unlikely that liquor stores would be open on Pioneer Day, given that under the bill the board of commissioners of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control would determine the holidays on which liquor could be sold. A majority of the board's members are Mormon as is the vast majority of the Utah Legislature.
Liquor stores could be open on holidays such as Labor Day or Presidents Day. The measure's sponsor said it was never the intent of the legislation to open stores on Christmas Day or other major holidays, but the amendment was added to make that clear.
State-controlled liquor stores have been open on Election Day since 2009. And imbibers have been able to get a drink in a bar or restaurant on Election Day since 2008.
None of the debate Friday satisfied Dalane England, a member of the conservative Eagle Forum. She told the committee that stores should not be opened to accommodate imbibers who represent "a minority of people." She also questioned why lawmakers would "want to change our laws and societal values based on the desires of tourists."
"When I go to England I want to experience what it's like there," she said. "People who come to Utah want to experience Utah. We are a unique state, a peculiar state and that's a great thing."