The Associated Press March 10, 2011, 8:58AM ET

Utah lawmakers approve bill to end drink specials

Utah law already outlaws happy hours, but on Wednesday lawmakers sought to take it even further by prohibiting daily drink specials.

Now, Utah bars have to charge the same price for a drink every day. That means no cheap drafts while watching football or half-price mimosas during Sunday brunch.

The change is one of many in a comprehensive liquor reform bill passed by the Legislature Wednesday, including an increase in the number of restaurant licenses.

Republican Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said the prohibition on daily specials is an important part of the state's "social agenda" to reduce excessive drinking and encourage eating with alcohol.

"There should not be a discounting of alcohol because it leads to overconsumption," Valentine said.

Neil Cohen, a compliance specialist with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said under current law liquor already can't be discounted but beer and wine specials are OK as long as the price remains the same all day. Happy hours are specifically prohibited in the law.

Many bars advertise specials such as "dollar drafts," but Cohen said the changes will halt those deals.

Food discounts can be offered.

Other changes in the bill make it legal for a single drink to be served through hotel room service. Previously, only unopened bottles of wine or liquor could be offered to hotel guests.

The number of restaurant licenses would increase, but not bar licenses. Both types of licenses are currently at their maximum.

Valentine said the Legislature is supportive of restaurants because food is served.

"Alcohol consumption at restaurants makes more sense rather than at bars and taverns," Valentine said.

The licenses will be contingent on the amount of alcohol enforcement officers. The Legislature is providing an ongoing stream of revenue, but Valentine said if it gets cut in the future it would mean fewer available licenses.

While officers are being funded, the Legislature is not giving the DABC enough funding to maintain their current number of stores. Unless something changes before Thursday, public information officer Vicki Ashby said seven liquor stores would need to close and the remaining stores in the state would only be open eight hours per day.

Wine, heavy beer and liquor is sold only in the state-run stores. Most are open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., although multiple stores in urban areas are open until 10 p.m.

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Associated Press reporter Chi-Chi Zhang contributed to this story from Salt Lake City.


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