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Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he thinks Utah's liquor laws are effective and not hampering the economy, as some have argued.
That said, Herbert indicated that he would be willing to listen to suggestions during the upcoming legislative session on how these laws could be improved.
"I think the laws, by and large, have worked well," Herbert said Thursday during his monthly KUED news conference. "Utah is not as peculiar as some places in the South or Pennsylvania, so it's not unique. We don't have a lot of people coming to me when I'm outside the state and saying, 'You know, we'd come to Utah if it wasn't for those darn liquor laws.' "
Utah's economy is still growing faster than almost any other state, Herbert said, and Forbes this week rated Utah as the No. 1 place to do business. Tourism also grew 8 percent last year.
"So things are working pretty well, maybe in spite of our liquor laws," the governor said.
The comments followed a statewide poll released Wednesday by UtahPolicy.com that said two-thirds of Utahns believe state liquor laws hurt tourism and the economy. About 26 percent of poll respondents said the laws "definitely hurt" economic development and tourism, while 43 percent said they "probably hurt."
Voters from all political leanings seemed to agree on the issue, with 91 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independent voters and 62 percent of Republicans saying the restrictive liquor laws are a detriment to economic development, according to a survey of 402 registered voters conducted by Dan Jones & Associates with funding help from Zions Bank.
Several years ago Utah changed liquor laws to do away with the requirement that people pay to be a member of a private club in order to enter a bar or tavern. In more recent years, proposals have been put forward to do away with the so-called "Zion Curtain," a barrier that new restaurants are required to install so patrons cannot see alcoholic beverages being poured or mixed. Those proposals have failed to make it through the Legislature, including last year when shortly before the session began the predominant LDS Church released a statement from a high-ranking Mormon official saying liquor laws did not need to be changed.
Restaurant owners have complained the barriers are unnecessary and cumbersome and add to the cost of doing business.
The recent UtahPolicy.com poll found that 62 percent of Utahns would like to get rid of the Zion Curtain.
Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, is planning to sponsor legislation in the upcoming session to get rid of the Zion Curtain.
Melva Sine, president of the Utah Restaurant Association, said this week that the group's No. 1 goal for the 2015 Legislature, which convenes in January, is to "do away with any kind of obstruction in serving and dispensing alcohol."
"We [Utah] should be hospitable and grant an adult request and do it in the most accommodating way possible," she said.