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New Utah liquor law updates coming into force – what they all mean

Beehive Distillery - bar area

Today’s the day folks, May 1st sees a raft of new legislative updates hitting the alcohol books in Utah. Hot off the heels of H.B. 548 passing – here are the main items and what they mean for consumers and businesses in Utah.

DABS must issue licenses

I’ve written about this policy change several times already this year – here, and here, and here. After months of the DABS only handing out constrained licenses to operators “ready to go”, everything has now changed, and as of today encoded into the law books.

The updated legislation means that businesses attending DABS meetings, to apply for licenses, can’t be denied an available license, “if the applicant satisfies the requirements to operate under state law.” Available licenses mind you, that’s a different matter (scroll to the end).

The change should make a momentous difference in licensing over the next year. Why? Once handed a conditional license by the DABS, would-be operators have eighteen months to open their doors, plus a further six discretionary months available by appeal. That means that a license available and issued today might only open its doors in 2026. And that’s fine as far as the law is concerned.

A savvy business owner then, might be minded to apply the very moment they’re legally able to – why dawdle? Securing a precious license at the earliest moment possible – long before a planned opening date just makes good business sense. In turn, this might put even more pressure on limited license availability.

Pre-mixed cocktails in cans are a go

Canned cocktails can now be sold at bars, and full-service restaurants. While you might have seen this previously in the wild, it’s only now officially legal. Canned mixed drinks must be sold in “the original sealed containers”, limited in size to 12 ounces, and can’t go over the 10% ABV mark.

Take that hotel drink to go

Should you be a guest at a suitable hotel or resort you can now take your drink with you in, “designated and approved areas throughout the hotel if the beverage is in an approved container.” Want to take that beer back to your room, now you can, in an approved container that is.

Beer tax increase

The Utah Tax Commission will collect an increased beer tax from brewing companies. The increase of $1 per keg will be implemented over four years. Today’s tax of $13.10 per beer keg will rise to $14.10 in 2028. For a 15.5-gallon keg containing the equivalent of 165 12 oz cans, that should make for an almost statistical irrelevance in the cost per brewksi. Brewers, of course, might disagree from their perspective.

State markup increase

Slightly higher, this increase is the one that made the headlines months back. The current state makup of 88% on liquor, wine, and flavored malt beverages will nudge up a half point to 88.5%. The DABS notes that the real-world impact on consumers should be minimal. Should a business price in the change, directly to the consumer, the DABS anticipates the increase to be, “about 20 cents per bottle on the high-end.”

Type 5’s given a break

On the flipside Type 5 Package Agencies will see their collected fees drop just over a half point from from 15.875% to 15.295%. In case you don’t know, Type 5s are those wonderful local places that make beer, wine, ciders, and spirits. With this license type under their belts, the business can sell directly to the public seven days a week – even on holidays. It’s worth noting that Type 5 laws were relaxed in last year’s session, brewers and distillers no longer need to operate an onsite bar or restaurant to sell their products directly.

No more 80% ABV products

Anything exceeding this potent point is now illegal for retail in Utah. Advice from the DABS notes that this currently only applies to an Everclear product in the state.

No frozen alcohol products at off-premise retail

Also gone are frozen alcohol products such as popsicles. I’m unsure if Utah ever had such a product available for retail, what with coolers in stores only a recent addition to newer locations; certainly I’ve never seen a freezer. And now, you never will. Presumably, the off-premise detail of the law still allows restaurants some liberty in their dessert courses.

Place of Last Drink Program

This new program under the Utah Department of Public Safety will ensure that during a traffic stop, law enforcement will establish the last location where the individual drank an alcoholic beverage.

Liquor store customers can donate towards treatment services

This one is still under development and should see the light of day in the coming months ahead. When it does launch your checkout experience should change a little. The DABS writes that, “state liquor stores provide an option for customers to roundup their purchase to the nearest dollar as a donation to the Pamela Atkinson Trust Fund for substance abuse and treatment services.” The roundup donation option is still under development and will launch at state liquor stores in the coming months.”

License quota updates

This big-ticket change isn’t quite here but will be very soon. These updates to how licenses are caluclated will come into force on July 1st and will substantially increase the quotas for liquor licenses in the Beehive. Albeit, over seven years. Ouch.

Bar licenses are currently issued at a rate of one license per 10,200 residents. That number will now slowly increase to one per 7,264 people. Specifics on the rate of that rollout have yet to be announced, but if it’s handled equally, I reckon it to be twenty-ish licenses per year. And remember, they could, in theory, all be issued on day one, if sufficient numbers of valid business appear in line for one…

Full-service restaurant licences meanwhile will rise from one per 4,467 residents to one per 3,167. Again, over seven years. Details on how this all breaks down are expected in the May DABS meeting at the end of the month. Stay tuned.

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5 thoughts on “New Utah liquor law updates coming into force – what they all mean”

  1. I love living under the white Zion curtain rules. Non drinker’s making laws they don’t understand but profit the most from it.

    1. Once again the profits, succeeds the miracle. The beloved church organization, that votes in these laws into play. Wont allow anyone from outside to place input.

    2. Yep, it’s similar to those that don’t have a uterus but still make laws regarding them.

      Since I visited Utah the first time in 2020, I’ve returned every year. I have thought a lot about relocating to Utah. I read about your beautiful state enough that it comes up in my news feed a lot. I’ve learned a lot about it. That’s how I came across this article. Circumstances have encouraged me to job search there. However, your government, governor Cox, gives me great apprehension doing so. I say that living in a very red state, albeit very blue city.

      Perhaps one day we can commiserate together with a drink while they go to bed with their bottle of milk.

      Our laws relaxed a little a few years ago but they’re still weird. The only place you can buy cold beer is a liquor store. If you buy beer at the grocery store it has to be room temperature. You can get drinks, even mixed drinks to go from a bar and walk around in public. It’s perfectly legal. You can walk into a bar and ask for a mixed drink to go. They’ll put it in a to go cup.

  2. The wrong people making our liquor laws but they charge them for a few weeks if and when we get the Olympics here. What a joke.

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