Sen. Dabakis Wants Voters To Decide Who Runs Utah's Liquor Business | KUER 90.1

Sen. Dabakis Wants Voters To Decide Who Runs Utah's Liquor Business

Jul 20, 2016

Democratic State Senator Jim Dabakis says if Utah lawmakers don’t take action this year to loosen up liquor laws, he’s going to launch a ballot initiative to privatize liquor sales in the state.

Dabakis says lawmakers are out of step with the people of Utah on liquor control. The Salt Lake Tribune in conjunction with the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics conducted a poll in January that shows a majority of Utahns would prefer alcohol sales be controlled by the private sector instead of the state-run Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Dabakis says customers may have to pay more for booze so the state won’t lose revenue. 

“But it is going to lose one of the most horrendous, soviet-style bureaucracies alive in America today, which is a 380 million dollar a year business run terribly by the state,” Dabakis says.

He also pointed to a Utah Policy Poll from February 2015 that shows two thirds of Utahns would prefer to do away with the so-called Zion Curtain. That’s the 7-foot-wall that separates diners in a restaurant from the bartenders preparing drinks. Dabakis sponsored legislation during the 2016 general session to remove the Zion Curtain, but the bill didn’t make it out of committee.

Republican Senator Todd Weiler was in that committee. He says his constituents have brought a number of complaints to him about the state-run operation.

“The business model is wrong. The customer service is terrible. The lines are too long. They run out of supplies. The frustration is real and I think that improvements could be made and should be made,” Weiler says. “But, the reality is it’s very difficult to collect enough signatures in 26 of the 29 Senate districts to qualify and place an initiative on the ballot.”

Launching a ballot initiative will be challenging, says Senator Jim Dabakis.  That’s why he wants to start raising money and gathering signatures now.

Senator Weiler says he expects several alcohol-related bills to crop up during the 2017 legislative session. Democratic State Senator Jim Dabakis says if Utah lawmakers don’t take action this year to loosen up liquor laws, he’s going to launch a ballot initiative to privatize liquor sales in the state.