Utah liquor laws, in comparison with other states across the country, can be tricky. State liquor commissioners recently approved guidelines that will help clear up some of the confusion regarding at least one aspect of liquor laws: restaurants.

According to Vickie Ashby, public information officer for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in Utah, state statute requires that full-service restaurants serve food to patrons who order alcoholic beverages.

"The new guidelines help to enforce the statute," Ashby said. "The guidelines are not requirements, but the statute is."

The guidelines say that, at a minimum, restaurants need to confirm a patron's intent to order food before serving that patron an alcoholic beverage. For example, the guidelines provide that a server can ask a customer, "Will you be dining with us today?" If the patron answers yes, he or she can then be served an alcoholic beverage.

Shantel Stoff, general manager of the Red Rock Brewing Company located in Kimball Junction, said that as long as a customer is going to dine at the restaurant, which can be demonstrated by sitting at a table with a menu and responding "yes" to the question, the customer can then order drinks before a meal.

"The majority of our guests come here to dine," Stoff said. "We almost never have an issue with that, because we have a lot of appetizers and desserts that customers can order with their drinks."

Stoff said that it is not difficult to meet the liquor law requirement that 70 percent of the restaurant's overall sales have to be from food. She also said the new guidelines approved will help, but there have not been any problems with following the "booze with food" statute at her restaurant.

Ashby said the guidelines were presented to an advisory board made up of licensees including representatives of full-restaurants, limited restaurants, clubs and other license categories and were then presented to the Utah liquor commissioners at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control who approved them as well.

"We have not had any problems with full-restaurants enforcing the statute, but with all the differences in business models, there is no one way to tell them how it should be enforced," Ashby said. "The guidelines are a way to help clear that up so that one way or another they can actively confirm a patron's intent to order food."