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Tragedies have led to the closing of two liquor outlets in eastern Utah, causing Duchesne County to go dry for now.
Both the Duchesne package agency and the one in Roosevelt were shuttered after store operators died. The closings have forced imbibers in the town of Duchesne to drive 55 miles south to the Price liquor store, and Roosevelt customers to travel 35 miles east to Vernal.
But the Duchesne outlet will reopen April 10 after being shuttered since Jan. 3. The Roosevelt liquor outlet, which closed Monday, won't reopen until May or June.
Both are among 36 state package agencies, which are different from larger state-owned stores because they are privately run operations in small towns and resorts. Most are stand-alone structures, although seven operate inside markets or other small businesses.
State regulators closed the Roosevelt store after the outlet's operator, Kenneth Iorg, was killed Saturday while driving to a fire that broke out in a travel trailer parked at his home.
On the way, Iorg, 52, inexplicably drove his Ford Taurus across a field, through a fence and into the side of a house near Roosevelt. Iorg, who was wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the Uintah Basin Medical Center.
Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Jeff Chugg said investigators believe Iorg had a medical condition.
On Tuesday, officials at the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control expressed their condolences to Iorg's friends and family.
They also announced that advertisements for a new operator will be placed in area newspapers soon.
The earliest that liquor-control commissioners would be able to approve a new contract would be at the end of April during their monthly meeting. Once a new contract is approved, it will take several days to restock the outlet, said liquor-control spokeswoman Vickie Ashby.
Also on Tuesday, commissioners approved a contract with Kenneth and Ginger McKinnon to operate the liquor outlet in Duchesne at 151 E. Main St. The couple are longtime Duchesne County residents.
The outlet closed three months ago after the death of Marian Mack, who had operated it for the past 14 years.
Earlier, liquor-control officials said the store had fallen behind in payments to the state, but after learning she had been ill, they stressed that all bills have been paid in full.
Declining health had sent Mack, 78, to the hospital for several weeks, with family members endeavoring to keep the outlet open.
"She was a longtime widow, a very hardworking person and as honest as the day was long," said Mack's niece, Kathy Wernli.
Separately, in July the state shut down package agencies in Spanish Fork and Springville after larger state-run stores opened in Utah County.
The Duchesne store was among the smaller outlets and had sales last year of nearly $400,000. The Roosevelt outlet is one of the largest, with annual sales of nearly $1 million.
Liquor package agencies
Numbers • 36 outlets are located in rural towns statewide
Operators • They are run by private contractors in stand-alone stores or in outlets in small businesses
Sales • Last year they totaled $11.4 million.