Utah's Bev/Al Control Law Faces Challenge

Jeff Carter, who used to work for Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits, has filed a citizen's initiative to put major changes in Utah's bev/al control system on the ballot next year.

He wants to do away with most state-owned liquor stores, allow private liquor stores, allow grocery stores to sell wine and spirits, and allow consumers to have wine shipped to them.

His bill would also change the state-mandated 88% retail markup to a 30% tax on alcohol.  That would reduce the price of a bottle of wine to $55 from $80, he says.

Why it matters: Granting Carter's petition would likely increase bev/al sales.  It would also reduce state government revenue by $120 million a year, according to Utah's Office of the Legislative Financial Analyst.

Chance of Success?  The state's position on alcohol has always been driven by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a., "the Mormons").  The Mormon population has been declining – it now represents only 55% of the population – but 90% of the state legislature are still members.  Opposition to bev/al is a fundamental doctrine for the LDS Church, and thus the legislature is expected to oppose the initiative.

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