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Adrienne J. Bell supports the firm's Beverage and Hospitality industry team with advice to clients on alcohol licensing and compliance issues. Adrienne, an associate in Stoel Rives' Real Estate section, practices in the areas of real estate, energy and natural resources law. As well as contributing to the Alcoholic Beverages Law blog, she co-authored an article on changes to Utah’s Alcohol Laws and was interviewed on X96 radio in Salt Lake City on proposed Utah alcohol service and consumption legislation.

Utah’s Transfer of Retail License Act (the “Act”), which becomes effective today, permits the transfer and sale of retail liquor licenses by current retail license holders. Although enacted in 2011, the legislature previously delayed implementing the Act in response to concerns that the creation of a private market for retail licenses would drive up prices

The controversy continues over Utah’s so-called “intent to dine” requirement for restaurants licensed to serve alcohol. As we previously discussed, the Utah Legislature amended the law to require restaurants to confirm that a patron has the intent to order food before serving an alcoholic drink. In response to the change, the DABC has proposed

Utah State Senator John Valentine (R) (Orem) has introduced a bill (S.B. 261) that may significantly affect alcohol operations if adopted.  S.B. 261 would require that all restaurant patrons must be “seated” to be served or consume a drink. Current law allows a patron to be served and consume a drink while standing at a counter, for instance, while waiting for a table or when proposing a toast. The change would require many restaurants to remodel waiting areas to add seats and frustrate patrons who are denied service if they cannot obtain a seat.

The seating requirement, along with other proposed changes in the bill, also would prevent restaurants from hosting private functions where guests remain standing while drinking, such as during a cocktail party, wedding reception or holiday party. Utah restaurants likely would experience a significant loss of sales as a result. Businesses and individuals who look to restaurants for private functions services also would be negatively affected by the loss of such services.

Additionally, S.B. 261 limits the DABC’s powers to waive or vary the requirements imposed under the statute. Unless expressly authorized under the statute, the DABC no longer would be able to grant variances based on long-standing interpretations of various provisions. For example, the bill would prohibit the change the DABC recently adopted to reverse its position on whether a restaurant patron must place an order for food prior to being served a drink as discussed here. If DABC were required to enforce the express provisions of the statute – a “licensee may not sell, offer for sale, or furnish an alcoholic product except in connection with an order for food” – it would not have been able to reverse course to read this provision as requiring that a patron may be served if an “intent to dine” is demonstrated.

S.B.261 also might eliminate other DABC practices that are not expressly articulated in the statute. For example, DABC currently allows a management agreement between a former owner and a new owner to bridge the gap between a change of ownership and the DABC’s review of the new owner’s license application. Such practice prevents a business from going dry for a short period of time while the new owner’s application is pending. If S.B. 261 passes, it is unclear whether the DABC could continue this practice.Continue Reading Utah Legislature Considers Amendments to Alcohol Beverage Control Act

Utah’s liquor control agency has changed its enforcement policy yet again. In an apparent about-face, the agency is returning to its prior policy, which requires evidence of an intent to dine before wait staff can serve drinks to restaurant patrons.  The agency’s head enforcement officer recently confirmed that compliance officers will not cite restaurants that

Utah’s liquor control agency has started citing restaurants that serve alcoholic drinks to patrons before they order food.  The agency has shifted policy to now strictly interpret a key provision of Utah’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, which provides:

            A full-service restaurant licensee may not sell, offer for sale, or furnish an alcoholic product except in