July 8, 2006
I am a Utahn. I have lived here all my life.
I now find myself criminally charged for giving away wine and beer at a free non-profit public event. I have also recently been told by a local elected official, that anyone who is critical of Utah liquor laws should "just move."
Mountain Town Stages is a local nonprofit group that fosters live music. The biggest challenge for us in achieving our goals is the inhospitable nature of Utah liquor laws. As with restaurants and sporting events, the availability of alcohol is critical for the ongoing success of live music performances.
I understand that those who do not consume alcohol have a hard time understanding why others would choose to have a beer, glass of wine or alcoholic beverage.
People choose not to drink for a variety of reasons — religion, addiction and the feeling that it is just not suitable for their lives. For many good folks, alcoholic consumption is the wrong choice. There are those who should not drink — youth under 21 and those who are overly intoxicated. No one should drive while drunk.
If you do not drink, you should try to understand this — most people drink responsibly and socially. Many decent folks consume alcohol because they enjoy it and they feel it enhances their life and their experiences. All drinkers are not drunks.
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I say be strong in your faith or the lack thereof, teach your children the reasons for your beliefs and allow others to do the same. I come from a large and fabulous Mormon family. "I don’t drink, I’m LDS" is a strong, admirable statement.
One major reason for the so-called "religious divide" in this state is our liquor laws. No one who consumes alcohol will tell you that Utah is a tolerant state. The vast majority of "drinkers" will tell you that there is no separation between church and state when it comes to alcohol legislation. Utah liquor laws are complicated and irrational.
This is the world headquarters of a religion, a faith and a way of life. This is also the place where many good people of other faiths and lifestyles choose to live and visit.
Let’s respect others. Have a genuine hand of friendship extended to all — drinkers or non-drinkers. Let’s try more dialogue and empathy. In the spirit of true hospitality, let’s update and simplify the liquor laws. We need to include those who drink and have liquor licenses in the process. Having non-drinkers make laws based on their beliefs is like having a group of rabbis run a pig farm or a chain of lobster and crab houses. It’s like putting Catholics in charge of the Good Friday Barbecue Rib Fest. Like non-swimmers being lifeguards. Here are a few oft-stated suggestions:
Eliminate most "private clubs" — this control method is very unfriendly.
Allow for a nonprofit "beer and wine" license for fundraisers and performances.
Establish tourist and event zones and allow more local control in these areas,
Allow all wine and all beer makers to sell their merchandise directly to clubs, restaurants and grocery stores. Get the state out of the distribution business.
Stop treating people that are obviously adults like children or sinners.
I am now defending the right to show hospitality in Utah. That simple right to buy a drink for someone else — at a block party, garage sale, open house, funeral, artist reception, fundraiser and community celebration.
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