House OKs liquor sales on some holidays

HB283 • Despite some concerns, Utah House passes the proposal.
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A proposal to keep some state liquor stores open on select holidays passed through the House on Monday despite concerns from some lawmakers that it might encourage overconsumption.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said HB283 was a way for the state to offer a convenience for customers who find themselves unable to make an alcohol purchase on holidays — but big ones like the Fourth of July or New Year's Day were amended out of the bill.

"We'll probably open on those wild party days like Columbus Day," she said, also noting the liquor stores used to be open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day before it became a holiday.

Arent said demand was enough that the state needed to adjust its view on liquor consumption. With changing demographics and a consistent message of supporting free-market principles, the proposal made sense, she said.

However, she also said it was a pilot program — meaning the effectiveness could be studied to see how it worked. It was estimated the opening of some liquor stores on holidays would generate revenue of $176,000 for the state.

The state would also control which stores and which holidays would be included in the trial.

Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, said Arent's bill was a reasonable approach and should be embraced by free-market supporters.

"I would suggest we need to give this a shot," Frank said.

The bill passed 42-30.

But House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said she opposed the measure because she feared it would lead to overconsumption of alcohol.

She also said she felt comfortable with the way things now stand.

"We seem to be doing OK right now with being closed on the holidays," she said. "I'm not hearing an outcry from my constituents on the holiday closures."

The bill now moves to the Senate.

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