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Free beer with a permit

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Months after a jury acquitted Old Town resident Randy Barton of breaking the law by giving drinks away free at an event he promoted, an ordinance that regulates the sale of alcoholic beverages in Summit County was refined last week to "allow everything that the state allows."

"It’s more in line with Salt Lake County and the Wasatch Front counties and Park City in terms of its licensing of alcohol establishments," Summit County chief deputy attorney David Thomas said. "For a bar owner or a club owner or somebody who is going to do a special event this actually probably makes it easier for them to understand because it parallels what they’re used to."

Though the new laws ban promoters from giving drinks away without a permit, Thomas insists residents can still host parties in their homes without a license.

According to Barton, a jury determined this year he was allowed to give alcohol away at events without a permit.

"You didn’t need a license when you were giving complimentary beverages away because there is no gain," Barton said.

Utah’s reputation as a land with quirky liquor laws can precede red rocks and ‘the greatest snow on Earth’ as discussion topics with travelers who visit the Beehive State.

But in Summit County, where the economy depends on tourism, Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme isn’t ready to proclaim the area needs the "most "generous (liquor) laws possible."

"That’s still what we want, but we don’t have to say it," County Commissioner Sally Elliott joked, before agreeing to remove the four words from the preamble to the county’s new alcohol ordinance.

More options for applicants

Instead of picking from a handful of options that some organizers complained didn’t sufficiently serve their needs, next year the county will begin offering 11 different licenses for beer retailers and those who sponsor events.

Changes to the laws include a new license available for special events that is valid for 30 consecutive calendar days, Thomas said.

"There may be additional requirements that the county didn’t have before, but it makes it more consistent (with state laws)," he added about the ordinance the County Commission last week.

Beginning Jan. 1, those who apply for special event licenses must no longer post a $1,000 bond to receive permits, he said.

They will, however, be subjected to background checks.

"We’re looking for anything that involves moral turpitude or alcohol infractions or offenses," Thomas said, adding that people who were convicted of driving under the influence could be denied licenses.

Places that sell beer will see costs for licenses jump significantly in 2007, with the prices for class A and B licenses slated to increase from $200 to $250 and $300 to $350, respectively, while class C licenses for bars will cost $500.

"We just raised our fees for no particular reason," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.

But County Clerk Sue Follett, who oversees the county’s beer licensing, insists costs to issue the licenses will increase next year when different departments begin to weigh in on inspections.

"We’re adding more county employees into the process," she said.

Meanwhile, the new laws enable the county to begin regulating private clubs, Thomas said, adding that the new rules allow retailers to sell beer until 2 a.m.

Woolstenhulme says the county must closely monitor club owners to make sure they report how much alcohol and food is sold in their establishments.

Finally, state laws generally prohibit drinking alcohol in public parks, Thomas said.

"That’s stupid," responded Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott, who added that officers in Park City have tolerated drinking in city parks. "I think we need to permit drinking beer in county parks You can take beer into parks in Park City."

Beer licenses expire Dec. 31

With the sale of wine and liquor regulated by the state, Follett insists beer licenses in Summit County expire New Year’s Eve.

"Do you anticipate having to close anybody down?" Elliott asked. "That’s horrifying."

According to Follett, if an establishment’s license expires, selling beer on New Year’s Day would be banned.

"We’re calling them up until 5 p.m. the very last day that we’re here," Follett said adding that the clerk’s office will close for the holiday Dec. 29.

Contact Follett at 615-3203 for information about renewing a beer license.


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