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If the Utah Legislature gives the go-ahead, officials will begin searching for land in southwest Salt Lake County and central Davis County to build two new state liquor stores.

The Riverton and Layton market areas currently have the greatest need for retail stores, Sal Petilos, executive director of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC), told a legislative committee Friday.

Identifying market areas — rather than individual cities — should help the DABC, which in the past has had trouble finding cities willing to host new stores, Petilos told members of a budget subcommittee.

Before any new stores are built, however, the DABC must get approval from the Legislature to issue revenue bonds. Petilos said the agency needs $5.4 million per parcel to start the purchasing and planning process.

Committee members were supportive of the plan, saying that if the state wants to maintain control of alcohol it needs to keep up with population growth.

Utah currently has 44 liquor stores, with two more in the works.

A second West Valley City store should open this spring, while the DABC and the Division of Facilities Construction and Management are looking for property in Syracuse where a store can be built.

The DABC has attempted to build one new store per year. But with Utah's population growth and increased liquor consumption, stores need to be built faster, Petilos said. "Population will continue to grow and we need to meet the demand."

Utah's population, currently at 3 million, is expected to jump to 3.9 million in 2030 and 4.5 million by 2040.