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A reminder on those Utah liquor law changes – now in effect as of June 1st

Mister Mellings Nitro Cream Ale at Squatters downtown SLC

It’s been a rollercoaster year regarding liquor laws, but then isn’t it always in Utah? In the omnibus liquor bill for 2022 the headline news was that roughly fifty percent of hard seltzers will now vanish from grocery store shelves (more on that in a minute); but you might rightly wonder what else is hidden away in the detail of the bill. With the help of DABC DABS staff and the always fabulous Utah liquor lawyer Tanner Lenart – I’ve compiled the full list of all the updates. These all came into force from June 1st.

Seltzers be gone

The biggie for 2022, the change in definition to what constitutes a beer. What exactly is a beer then? Well now, it’s any that is labelled as the following:

(A) beer; (B) ale; (C) porter; (D) stout; (E) lager; (F) a malt; (G) a malted beverage; or (H) seltzer. As Lenart notes, “Remember in Utah beer is 5% ABV or less and can be sold in groceries and on tap. Changes – now must be “clearly marketed, labeled and identified as beer” and cannot contain any liquor or wine or TCH-type ingredients. None. Not even a trace amount of any of these items.”

Bringing seltzers into this scope also means that ethyl alcohol (a common flavor stabilizer) cannot be present, and in turn, the much storied loss of some 50+ products from grocery and convenience store shelves.

In March this year, the Tribune’s Stefene Russell compiled the following list of hard seltzers that are expected to be non compliant with the new rules. According to Russell the products would be available only in DABC DABS liquor stores (should they deem to carry them).

More bars, kinda, ish, almost

Through 2021 I’ve written with increasing incredulity that Utah’s bar license inventory has inched ever closer to complete exhaustion. That came this year in February, with the legislature relatively unmoved to remedy the dire status.

The final liquor bill for 2022 saw an update to how hotel and resort licenses function. To quote the DABC, “Bar sub-licenses within a hotel or resort license do not count toward the quota of total allowable bar licenses in the state. Resort and hotel license holders are required to hold sub-licenses for individual establishments within their licensed areas. Bar licenses that become sublicenses of either a hotel or a resort no longer count toward the state quota of allowable bar licenses.”

The net effect of that update? Nine bar licenses will be handed out at this month’s DABC DABS meeting. Commissioners and staff have spent months trying to solicit input from the public; we shall shortly see how that transpires. As of May, fifteen bars were on the docket, aiming to secure one of those nine bar licenses. See this story for the full list.

Beer me

This update now allows customers to take beer to go from both bars and restaurants. The caveats are that the beer most be:

  • 5% ABV or under
  • Sold in a sealed container
  • The container is no larger than two liters

For restaurants, if you wish to take advantage of the above, you first need to have dined. In both instances there’s no limit to how much you can take to go. This doesn’t effect existing growler rules and wine/cider to go; as a reminder there, if you order wine/cider in a restaurant or bar, provided you sample the product you’re fine to reseal the bottle and take it to go when you leave.

Want that info in a chart? You got it…here it is direct from the DABC, DABS:

DABS beer to go 2022 rules

Praise be, it’s Sunday

Many don’t know that YES – you can buy liquor, strong beer, hard cider and wine on a Sunday. If you want to get booze on the sabbath you need to head to a local manufacturer that holds a Type 5 Package agency license. The laws around those have now been relaxed ever so slightly.

Previously Type 5 PAs required the applicant to additionally operate a bar or restaurant at the same location as their manufacturing facility. The 2022 update sees this nixed. This potentially opens the floodgates for any local brewer, distiller or winemaker to apply for a Type 5 PA and sell you the good stuff on Sundays and holidays.

What’s in a name

The 2022 legislation sees DABC become DABS. That’s Control to Services which according to the currently monikered DABC, “emphasizes the service-oriented nature of the department.”

You can insert your own dabs jokes and memes here…

take your time…

go on…

You get nothing, good day sir

For those keeping track, I’ve been warning this one will come to pass, and now it has. It’s now illegal to sell bar licenses as part of a private sale. This raises a fabulous mess of complicated questions – will it even be possible to legally sell a bar as a going concern in Utah? “Let me sell you my fabulously profitable business… But errr, I can’t sell you the legal permit to keep it open, and um, err, you can’t actually apply for a new one either because the supply has run out…” So there’s that.

In May’s DABC DABS meeting, the last tranche of private bar license sales were completed, with one changing hands for $100,000.

Permit me to allow that

Event planners will love to see that the number of allowable single event permits has now been increased. Single event, 72-hour permits that may be issued in a calendar year have now increased from 12 to 24 permits.

Wanna join my club

Much has been written about the new wine club laws. Customers can now purchase wine from out of state suppliers – wine of the club subscriptions and the like. Naturally it comes with some caveats and the DABC DABS notes, “The individual pays the cost of the subscription, taxes and fees, plus the 88 percent markup as required under Utah law. Customer picks up their orders from a state store or package agency.”

While some might initially recoil at spending another 88% on top of out of state list prices, I think some caution should be exercised here. I would imagine that the 88% will be levied INSTEAD of out of state taxes, rather than ADDITIONALLY to them. Ever bought a car out of state and had it shipped to Utah? That’s exactly what happens, you don’t get dinged twice by multiple state taxation. If this holds true for wine, it means the resulting price won’t be anywhere near as punitive as many imagine. I ran this by DABC DABS staff and they confirmed that the final details still need to be ironed out. I’ll keep you posted.

Special order wheels to be greased

According to DABS (ok I’ll start using it), “Goals are to create a faster special order process so consumers could receive their order in days, instead of weeks, and customers can order smaller amounts as allowed by the product vendor.” Fabulous. Knowing several alcohol brokers as I do, I expect many to seize on any opportunity to help their clients boutique wines and spirits access our state that much easier.

The previous special ordering process was known for its somewhat byzantine nature and requirement to order a full case of wine or liquor – then wait for weeks and months for its arrival. As part of the new update, customers will be able to purchase special orders in whatever bottle minimum the out of state suppler sets. Again, expect savvy brokers to advise their clients to create product SKUs that allow for smaller bottle orders as part of their product line up.

Beer me, again

Ever craved a beer while soaking in your hotel spa – now you can. The DABS (ooh it’s kinda cool, look I did it again), “Hotels that are licensed to sell alcohol can serve in their spa areas with the required sub-license. Expands the ability to serve alcohol in a spa to hotel licensees that obtain a spa sublicense. Hotels that are already licensed to sell alcohol on-premise may also serve within their spas, in a designated service area.”

Build baby build

Utah recently also hit a wall in terms of resort licenses as well, this has now been increased from four to eight. The full report on the updates lists “Resort licenses are available to areas associated with a ski area and have many amenities such as lodging, bars, and restaurants, within their footprint. There are now eight total resort licenses allowed in the state of Utah.”

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4 thoughts on “A reminder on those Utah liquor law changes – now in effect as of June 1st”

  1. Stuart, does the resort license have anything to do with what is going on at Deer Valley and them banning outside alcohol?

    1. I can’t say for sure, but if they’re using a ‘single event permit’ for the event, that would seem to prohibit that activity per:

      “No “Brown Bagging” – Attendees of an event may not bring any alcoholic beverages onto the premises of the event.”

      Edit: the resort license itself doesn’t appear to provide coverage for events by itself:

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