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Waddoups Liquor Laws Designed to Segregate?

January 15, 2009
City Weekly Founder John Saltas and former Zephyr Club Owner Otto Meleti weigh in on the Utah liquor debate.

by Richard Markosian with help from Steve Auerbach

video by Jonny Glines

SLC Punk 2009
Utah liquor law opinions video

Mike Waddoups, Utah State Senate President elect, doesn't want to be known for the shake up he is causing in the Utah Legislature over his work to draft a new bill that would take liquor and mixing of drinks out of view of restaurant patrons. If Waddoups measures are passed it would cost each establishment an estimated $100,000 in order to comply. According Salt Lake City Weekly Founder, John Saltas, Waddoups' bill would regress Utah liquor laws 20 years.

Waddoups' actions to attempt to "remove liquor from the sight of children" run contrary to the actions of Utah Governor John Huntsman. Huntsman wants to remove many of the burdens liquor laws place on both Utah bars and restaurant owners. Huntsman also sees potential economic value in attempting to remove the stigma attached to Utah due to it's harsh liquor policy.

If Waddoups' bill passes,all Utah restaurants that serve alcohol, will be required to provide an additional space for making drinks, or remove alcohol from their restaurants all together.

Waddoups' actions have offended many, especially Saltas, who says Waddoups will further segregate the non-Mormon and Mormon population.

Liquor policy in Utah has been a hot button issue for years and has produced what is well known as "the great divide" in Salt Lake City--the divide is between practicing members of the LDS faith and those who are non-Mormon. While the Salt Lake metropolitan district is by majority non-Mormon, and has elected a Democrat Mayor for the past 30 years, residents of Utah as a majority are Mormon, Republican and don't consume alcoholic beverages.

According to Saltas, Waddops is just one Senator in a long line who have deepened the religious divide and worked to further segregate Utahns, by imposing their moral values on non-believers. Saltas goes on to attribute lack of outside corporate investment into Salt Lake City due to the perception that the majority of the State Legislature will work to impose their religious beliefs on those who are not LDS.

So is liquor policy stifling economic growth in Salt Lake City? Utah as a whole has one of the strongest and most diverse economies in the nation. Increasingly, the economic strength of Utah as a whole is moving outside of Salt Lake City. Ogden City, which is 40 miles to the North of Salt Lake City has liberalized their liquor laws by allowing multiple bars within a single block. Ogden has seen significant corporate investment in recent years by national outdoor retailers such as Solomon, Rossignol, Decente and others.

Former Zephyr club owner Otto Meleti says that Utah's liquor laws have hindered business growth and development in Salt Lake City. Meleti's former bar, The Zephyr Club, gained national prominence among touring bands for the crowds gathered to hear live music in a venue that served alcohol. The Zephyr and Utah's most popular bar the Port O'Call demonstrated to many tourists that Salt Lake City could offer a good time at night. The Zephyr has been closed since 2005, due to the unwillingness of the owner of the property to renew his Meleti's lease; and the Port O'Call is slated for demolition for the expansion of Salt Lake City's Federal Courthouse.

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Reader Comments

from jules amber

The story is well written, intelligent and focused. It discusses a hot button issue in a logical presentation and shows how the issues are being discussed.

Again, well written

You should keep up the good work.

from Justin

I think Mormons would be amazed at the damage that Utah's liquor laws do to the image of The Church among visitors to this state. When a visitor, who is here on vacation or for business, tries to get a drink in one of Utah's "Private Clubs" and is asked to fill out paperwork, show ID, and pay a membership fee, it strikes them as completely ridiculous and usually requires an explanation from the host at the door. Most people know that Mormons don't drink. When a visitor is told that the hassles involved in going out for drinks are all the result of Utah Law, the logical conclusion is that, in Utah, the religious beliefs and moral code of the LDS Church are written into law. That message gets relayed back to their friends and co-workers at home. These laws do more damage to the image of Utah than anything else, but they also damage the image of the LDS Church. If you don't believe me, go stand by the door at any Private Club in Utah during a convention or a busy weekend.

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