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The right of Utah restaurant patrons to sip alcoholic beverages while looking at menus before actually ordering food is well on its way to becoming written into state law.

Senators voted 24-0 Friday to pass HB240, sponsored by Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley City, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.

The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control recently created an uproar by issuing a wave of citations to restaurants saying such a practice was a violation of current state law. The agency later backed off the effort.

After an outcry over citations, DABC director Salvador Petilos said there had been a misunderstanding about the directive and that customers were allowed to be served so long as they signaled an intent to order food. Even so, the warning has had a chilling effect on the industry. Restaurants such as Chili's Grill & Bar in downtown Salt Lake City still will not serve alcoholic beverages until diners actually place an order.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said the bill is not a change of state law as much as it is a clarification that as long as diners show an intent to buy food at a restaurant, they may order an alcoholic drink first.

Lee Davidson