Provo poised to dump Sunday beer-sale ban

Commerce • Council members say the city is changing, but substance-abuse official warns of consequences.
This is an archived article that was published on in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • The city's ban on Sunday beer sales appears headed down the same path as Prohibition: toward repeal.

Five of Provo's six Municipal Council members say they will vote Tuesday to lift the decades-long ban, pointing to changing mores in Utah's third most-populous city.

"From what I'm hearing from the people, Provo City is ready to do this," Councilwoman Laura Cabanilla said Friday.

Currently, convenience stores and grocers are barred from selling the suds on Sundays, blocking off the beer racks to shoppers until Monday.

But Kye Nordfelt, coordinator of Utah County Health Department's Substance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team (SMART), worries the city is about to make a terrible mistake.

"In isolation, the Sunday ban can appear backward," Nordfelt wrote in an email to council members. "To better understand the benefits [of restricting beer sales], consider the fact that heavier drinking and related problems increase on the weekend."

Conversely, he argued that the Sunday ban reduces alcohol consumption.

Nordfelt sent council members data from the Utah Department of Public Safety showing that alcohol-related crashes from 2004 to 2008 were more likely on Saturdays, with Monday being the least likely day. He said Sunday DUI crashes could jump in Provo if beer sales are permitted.

But Council Vice Chairwoman Midge Johnson, who said she will vote to remove the ban, doubts Nordfelt's data.

Nordfelt's email — obtained through an open-records request — was one of three messages the council received since it began considering an end to the sales ban, and the only one against the idea.

Lois Kelson, who owns a chain of gas stations/convenience stores — two of which are in Provo — said the policy is bad for business.

"With an ever-changing culture in our state and city, it makes more sense to accommodate our own citizens than have them go three miles down the road to Springville to purchase it, which is where we send them on Sunday," Kelson wrote. "It is time to be more realistic in how we try to regulate the various cultures in our city and be more open-minded and accepting [of] other beliefs than the predominant population in the city."

Provo is mainly Mormon, whose faith teaches its members not to drink alcohol.

Council Chairman Rick Healey said he recognizes that the city's culture is more diverse, adding that it's time to allow people to buy beer on Sunday if they so choose.

"Beer is a legal item," Healey said. "It doesn't make sense to have cardboard covers on the beer shelves on Sunday."

The only council member who voiced reservations with switching the policy was Cynthia Dayton. Her reason? She wants to hear the debate before she decides.

Twitter: @donaldwmeyers —

What's next?

P The Provo Municipal Council plans to vote Tuesday on an ordinance lifting the ban on Sunday beer sales. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Council Chambers, 351 W. Center St.