Mormons Fight Bid to Ease Liquor Laws

Religion News Service

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is opposing efforts by Utah hospitality and tourism industry officials to ease liquor regulations in the state.

At a hearing Tuesday before state liquor officials, the church repeated its stand that "existing policies on alcohol use are sound and should not be liberalized. The state should strictly control the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages."

Commission Chairman Nicholas Hales said no changes are planned, but the commission will consider the issues raised at the hearing.

Utah has some of the strictest liquor laws in the country. Grocery stores only are permitted to sell beer with a maximum content of 3.2% alcohol. Sales of wine and distilled spirits are limited to state liquor stores and a restricted number of licensed restaurants and private clubs.

Supporters of easing the laws say they want to accommodate visitors during the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee agreed not to seek liquor law changes.

About 70% of Utah's population belongs to the Mormon Church, which strongly opposes alcohol use.

"Utah's record in limiting the disastrous social and health effects of alcohol is second to none," said Mormon Church attorney Jerry Fenn. "The state needs to preserve that remarkable record while allowing people reasonable access to alcohol."

Susan Cohen, who represented the Snowbird ski resort, said the current rules are "an intricate web of licensing" that includes different sets of rules for catering, restaurants, room service, lounges and special events.

"Our business is hurt by the hoops our customers have to jump through to get a drink," she said.

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