Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a bill to overhaul the state’s liquor laws. Meanwhile, state regulators are already preparing to work through the changes.
In a written statement, Herbert said the bill is a major update of already-effective alcohol regulation. He says the bill will fund education and enforcement to prevent underage drinking, while giving restaurants more options for dispensing alcohol.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is already preparing to work with restaurants for smooth implementation.
DABC Compliance Director Nina McDermott said restaurants that send in applications in May could now begin taking down their Zion Curtain barriers as soon as July 1.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done right now,” she said. “The biggest thing is for compliance staff to make sure that we are all giving consistent answers to licensees and applicants as they’re calling with questions.”
McDermott said a big concern is that restaurants will begin taking down the barriers without proper approval, which could result in fines or other citations.
Some provisions in House Bill 442 will take effect in July, but other parts of the bill allow restaurants to take until 2022 to complete their changes.
There has been some uncertainty from restaurateurs about how the changes will play out, as well as lingering concerns from owners with dining club licenses who must choose to convert to either a restaurant or a bar.
Bill co-sponsor Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, reassured DABC commission members and restaurant owners that he’ll work with them should unforeseen issues arise.
“It’s got a long implementation process,” Stevenson said. “We’ve got four or five years before this is completely in place. So that gives us an opportunity to make some changes.”
Last week the governor also signed a bill to let the DABC keep an extra $1 million of its revenue each year. It can use that money to increase employee pay and purchase equipment.