State Rep. Powell to host liquor law forum in PC | ParkRecord.com

State Rep. Powell to host liquor law forum in PC

Alan Maguire, The Park Record

State legislator Kraig Powell, who represents Park City in Utah’s House of Representatives, will be hosting a community forum in Park City on Thursday night to discuss Utah’s liquor laws.

The event will take place at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church as part of its "Project for Deeper Understanding" series of forums and lectures.

The forum will feature panelists who hail from a variety of backgrounds. State Senator John Valentine, State Representative Jack Draxler, Craig PoVey (Utah Division of Substance Abuse), Hans Fuegi (owner of Grub Steak Restaurant and board member of the Utah and Park City Area Restaurant Associations and Utah Office of Tourism Development), James Dumas (executive chef at High West Distillery & Saloon) and Des Barker (Park City Chamber/Bureau lobbyist) are all expected to contribute to the discussion.

The forum is called "Through a Glass, Darkly." It is a take on a passage from the book of Corinthians in the Bible, as Powell explains in his prepared remarks for the forum.

"In our interactions with others, Paul says that we see ‘through a glass, darkly,’ meaning that our view is usually clouded by obstructions, misunderstandings, biases, and other misperceptions," Powell wrote. "I think this difficulty of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes is a huge factor in the constant debates over Utah’s liquor laws."

"I think one of the worst things we can do is draw battle lines," he continued, "and then we start talking in generalities and we end up just painting a broad brush."

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Powell is considering introducing legislation to amend and simplify the existing "intent to dine" and "separate dispensing area" requirements in Utah’s liquor laws and told The Park Record he is especially interested in hearing Park City’s restaurant operators’ and Chamber/Bureau’s take on the effects of the existing laws, and whether there are any particular laws that "turn customers off."

In order to foster a productive discussion, Powell is focusing the forum on two specific laws the "intent to dine" and "separate dispensing area" requirements in order to avoid the forum descending into venting that is "more general or philosophical, criticizing the entire system of distributing and regulating alcoholic beverages by the State of Utah."

The "intent to dine" law was modified this year and requires restaurants to only serve alcoholic beverages to diners after the restaurant "confirms that the patron has the intent to order food." The law has drawn derision for being impractical and burdensome to both restaurants and patrons. Powell is suggesting that the law may be unnecessary.

"Utah has a requirement that a restaurant must have 70 percent of its sales from food and not from alcohol, or else it will lose its liquor license," Powell notes. "The intention here, as I understand it, is both to reinforce the safety aspect of combining food with drink, but also to maintain an atmosphere that distinguishes between restaurants (which are primarily about eating) and bars or clubs (which focus more specifically on serving alcohol). So one question is whether just enforcing the 70 percent food requirement by itself would be sufficient to ensure that most people in a restaurant are eating a meal with their beverage, thus removing the need for a law that specifically mandates the consumption of food with an alcoholic beverage."

The Project for Deeper Understanding was started by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church pastor Charles Robinson. The Project’s Facebook page explains its inception: "When Charles first arrived in Park City (June 2004), he found a religious community completely engulfed in and divided by the culture war. The community was split apart in reaction to views held on a variety of topics. Most on each side of the divide were convinced that they were right and had nothing to learn from ‘the other side.’ Charles saw this form of community polarization and resistance to hearing about or learning anything from someone who might hold a different perspective as both highly destructive and unnecessary."

Powell has attended and participated in several Project for Deeper Understanding events in Park City and was "very impressed." He "thought [liquor laws] would be a natural topic for one of their series."

The Project for Deeper Understanding will present "Through a Glass, Darkly," a community forum on Utah’s liquor laws hosted by State Rep. Kraig Powell, on Thursday, Nov. 7, from 7-9 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 4595 Silver Springs Dr., Park City. Admission is free and open to the public.

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