If the state's legislature has its way, you might be asked "Would you like fries with that?" at more than just your favorite fast-food drive through.
And your answer better be "yes." At least if you're ordering an alcoholic beverage.
That's because the elected officials running our state are seemingly under the impression our liquor laws are not convoluted, off-putting and laughable enough, and have decided to further-confuse everyone by requiring restaurant customers to clearly indicate they intend to order food before they can be served an alcoholic beverage.
Utah's "intent to dine" law has actually been around for some time. But the legislature wants to crack down on those lawless patrons trying to get away with not being very hungry and enforce this rule with an actual confirmation.
According to our esteemed electorate, the conversation between restaurant patron and bartender would be as casual and cool as something like this:
Patron: "Hi. Can I have a margarita please?"
Bartender: "That depends, are you planning to eat?"
Patron: "Well, yes. I can't survive without food. At some point, I will have a meal."
Bartender: "I need you to confirm you plan to order food at this restaurant, during this visit."
Patron: "Ok, give me some chips and salsa."
Bartender: "That doesn't count."
Patron: "Why not?"
Bartender: "Because chips and salsa are complimentary. You have to eat food you paid for."
Patron: "Ok, I'll order something to take home and sip my drink while I wait."
Bartender: "That doesn't count either.
Patron: "So, I can't get my margarita unless I also order an item on the menu, which I must consume inside this establishment before you close tonight?"
I'm sure tip jars will be jammed with $20 bills at the end of the night after a few of these conversations. But our state legislatures don't see the awkwardness of an exchange as unnecessary as this.
The whole idea that we need to further enforce one of the most restrictive liquor laws in the country is completely lost on me. Essentially, they want the existing "intent to dine" to become "clearly state your intention to dine."
But isn't the very act of being in a restaurant stating your intention to dine? How often do you go to the Olive Garden just to get hammered? This proposal is the equivalent of the FAA requiring pilots to get verbal confirmation from every passenger boarding their plane. "Sorry ma'am, we can't leave the runway until you clearly state you are on this plane with the intention to fly."
And exactly how is anyone going to prove their intention to eat? Do they need to have the menu memorized and be able to recite it upon request? Does their stomach need to rumble at a specific decibel? Should they produce a witness who can confirm when their last meal was? What if you say you plan to eat, have a drink while waiting for a table and the babysitter calls with an emergency? Will you be arrested for jetting home? Charged with "drinking without eating?"
That all sounds silly. But that's exactly what the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (whose members are appointed by our state lawmakers) is trying to figure out. To their credit, they have requested more input from restaurant owners prior to making a decision. A vote could take place at this month's meeting.
But why this sudden desire to clarify the "intent to dine" law? State lawmakers say their main concern is they don't want to promote a "culture of alcohol" in Utah. However, they apparently have no qualms about the "culture of unrealistic idealism and stupidity" they promote.
It's no secret the majority of Utah legislators are LDS, which teaches its members to abstain from alcohol. And yet they are the ones proposing laws and writing new rules. Which is kind of like letting a group of strict vegans who are card-carrying members of PETA write and enforce laws dictating how, where and when the rest of us can have a steak.
I am all for people believing in whatever higher power they chose and living their lives according to their beliefs. But the idea you can legislate those beliefs for others is where the issue lies. Mostly because of a pesky document called the U.S. Constitution. Our founding fathers were pretty clear they wanted church and state completely separate. They wrote those words specifically to avoid having a 'churchislature' like we have in Utah.
And despite how troubling I find our elected officials' blatant disregard for the First Amendment, frankly, it's just something I've gotten used to here.
The real hypocrisy lies in the idea that the LDS Church instructs its members to abstain from alcohol because it's not good for them. An idea I could entertain if I didn't witness many of my Mormon friends bowing their heads to say something like: "Bless this food to nourish and strengthen my body" right before they consume powdered doughnuts and Diet Coke.
There are a lot of things that aren't good for us. Driving away millions of potential tourism dollars because of antiquated and ridiculous liquor laws is just one of them.
So this is what our state lawmakers have been busy doing on our dime. Meanwhile, our public schools are still embarrassingly underfunded. The FBI is investigating our attorney general — the guy in charge of enforcing our laws — for bribery and extortion. We have the highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the country. And a huge chunk of our population breathes toxic air about five months out of the year.
But hey, as long at people can't get a glass of wine until they verbally tell a waitress what they intend to pair it with, they think they're doing their job.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.