Record editorial: Park City tourism industry must live with lowered DUI threshold
December 27, 2018
There's no putting the cork back in the bottle.
Utah's strictest-in-the-nation DUI law is at last set to take effect, despite pleas from restaurateurs and the tourism industry for lawmakers to reconsider the measure they passed in 2017. Come Sunday, drivers will be breaking the law if they get behind the wheel with a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 or higher.
Many of the biggest complaints about the lowered threshold, which supporters say will make roads safer, have come from Park City. Local tourism officials worry the law may drive away guests and decrease profitability. The concerns are valid.
Park City is already fighting an uphill battle due to the need to clarify that, yes, you can get a drink in Utah, a problem our mountain town competitors in other states don't share. The lowered DUI threshold seems likely to up the degree of difficulty by adding to the confusion about — and disdain for — the state's unique liquor laws.
Likewise, restaurants are also wary. If patrons, whether Parkites or visitors, order fewer drinks with dinner for fear of blowing over 0.05, it could result in a hit to the bottom line.
After the law was passed, restaurant owners and tourism officials prodded legislators to reconsider the DUI threshold. The effort was unsuccessful. The tourism industry now has no choice but to attempt to mitigate any potential adverse effects.
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Fortunately, officials can boast to potential visitors about Park City's free transit system. It's not always as convenient as driving, but there are perks — most importantly, taking the bus allows guests headed for a night out on Main Street to avoid paying for parking. Also, the town is flush with transportation companies and ride-share services. The price can climb during peak times, but ordering a cab or an Uber after having three glasses of wine with dinner is as easy as whipping out a cellphone.
And for all the (mostly justified) scorn associated with the way Utah regulates alcohol consumption, the intent behind the DUI law — to save lives — is laudable. Perhaps guests will agree and be more game than expected for adapting to the lower limit.
Is the new DUI threshold good public policy? Despite advocates' claims, the Park City tourism industry won't be convinced until there's hard proof of it making our roads safer. But by adjusting to the change and emphasizing the ease of getting around without a car, tourism officials can reassure visitors our town remains a place to have a rollicking good time.
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