The 2011 legislative session wrapped up last night with several changes being made to Utah’s liquor laws, including:

  • Converting 40 tavern only licenses into 15 full restaurant licenses and 25 limited restaurant licenses (beer and wine only)
  • Allowing a hotel guest to order one drink at a time through room service
  • Permitting alcohol to be sold beginning at 11:30 a.m. (a change from noon for liquor and wine and 10:00 a.m. for beer)
  • Increasing the fees for liquor licenses (for instance the initial and renewal fees for a limited restaurant license increased to $750 and $550 respectively)
  • Banning the sale of mini-kegs
  • Allowing existing licensees to sell liquor licenses, although not until after July 31, 2012, when that portion of the law goes into effect
  • Creating a reception license for reception centers larger than 5,000 square feet that derive no more than 30% of gross sales from the sale of alcohol
  • Eliminating any doubt that an establishment cannot allow drink specials
  • Requiring dining club licenses to derive at least 60% of gross sales from food
  • Increasing enforcement

The bill (S.B. 314) now awaits Governor Herbert’s signature, which is expected. While the new law will free up an additional 40 restaurant licenses, many observers doubt that this will alleviate demand for long. The state currently has issued 21 more licenses than allowed under current law because of an overestimation of census figures. This law preserves the licenses already granted, but it will take some time before population catches up with the number of licenses already granted let alone freeing up additional licenses.