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Studies have said that Utah needs far more liquor stores to meet demand, and the state had said it planned to build one a year. But Gov. Gary Herbert chose not to put that in his budget this year so legislators wanted to know why on Wednesday.
Salvador Petilos, director of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, gave two main reasons to budget committee.
First, he said some state officials question whether the study that recommended at least 12 more stores along the Wasatch Front three years ago is accurate or possibly out of date. Second, the department is having trouble finding cities willing to host new stores and it wants to build them only where they are welcomed.
He said a study by the Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah recommended seven new stores in Salt Lake County including six on its west side.
West Valley City agreed to one last year, but he said his department has been unable to find other cities willing to host them in spots where his department figures they are most needed. For example, he said Sandy would agree to a store only near State Street, but his department figures one is needed further east.
Petilos said it found similar problems in Davis County, but Syracuse has been willing to allow one.
Under questioning by the committee, Petilos said a Syracuse store would cost $5 million but the project did not make the cut in budget priorities by Herbert.
Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said appropriators are considering adding it anyway to continue slowly adding new stores to help meet growing demand, and several others voiced support to continue building new stores.