S.B. 261 passed out of the Senate Business and Labor Committee this morning.  The amendments address many industry concerns we reported on earlier this week.  Notably, the requirement that a patron must be “seated” to be served or consume alcohol has been removed from the bill.  The amendments also clarify that the new enforcement provisions and penalties for serving minors would apply to sting operations only, not to situations where an underage guest presents a false identification.  Concerning the proposed changes to the DABC’s authority, Senator Valentine clarified on the record that the intent is not to affect the commission’s ability to administer the law.  Rather, the intent is to prohibit the DABC from waiving explicit requirements of the statute.   Senator Todd Weiler (R) also proposed an amendment to allow a restaurant licensee to host private functions.  The amended S.B. 261 will now move to the Senate floor for a vote.

Two other key alcohol bills have passed the House and currently are pending in the Senate.  H.B. 218, sponsored by Representative Gage Froerer (R), proposes to create a separate quota for social clubs, or bars.  Currently, social clubs are considered in the same category as dining clubs, which are largely fine dining restaurants, equitable clubs (e.g., country clubs) and fraternal clubs, such as an Elk’s Lodge.  In addition, the bill would make new club licenses available by shifting quotas and reducing the availability of reception center licenses, which are not in high demand.  The change likely will create around 25 new licenses, which are targeted primarily for dining, equitable and fraternal clubs.  H.B. 218 also proposes to increase the time that a conditional license can be granted from 6 to 12 months, and addresses the “intent to dine” issue by proposing to allow a restaurant to serve a drink to a patron if the patron indicates an intent to dine.  A less business friendly bill (H.B. 240) also addresses the intent to dine issue and has passed the House.

Representative Ryan Wilcox (R) has also proposed new legislation that is receiving a lot of attention.  If passed, H.B. 228 will eliminate the so-called “Zion Curtain” that requires some restaurants to mix and pour cocktails and beer behind a wall and out of the view of restaurant patrons.

Both H.B. 218 and H.B. 240 appear to be stuck in the Senate Rules committee.  Contact your Senator if you support the changes proposed in these bills. As a reminder, the general session ends March 14, 2013.