SALT LAKE CITY — With the legislative session a week away, The LDS church says Utah’s current liquor laws have benefits and should stay the way they are.
In an interview posted on an LDS church website, Elder D. Todd Christofferson says, while Utah’s liquor laws may be the brunt of jokes at times, the church feels they’re rational.
“It’s very important to avoid an alcohol culture,” said Christofferson who’s an apostle with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
He said Tuesday the LDS church opposes any attempts to privatize Utah’s alcohol beverage control system or an increase in the number of liquor licenses.
“We’ve got a reasonable system and it seems to be working and I believe the efforts to chip away at this over the years are counterproductive,” Christoffson said.
Last year there were attempts to remove the so-called Zion Curtain, the 7-foot-2 wall that blocks you from seeing alcohol poured in restaurants. That failed and the wall remained with the help of Sen. John Valentine.
“For about the last five years I’ve been making many of the same arguments that were made in the statement today,” Valentine said.
The church credits federal and state statistics that say Utah has the lowest number of DUI deaths per capita in all 50 states.
Plus, statewide averages show lifetime and recent 30-day alcohol use among eighth, 10th and 12th graders is half the national average. And in 2010, the Beehive state had the lowest number of incidents of 18 and over binge drinking than any state in the country.
“Why would we want to run the risk of losing any of those benefits?” Christofferson asked.
Church officials add that some fail to realize Utah doesn’t have dry counties while other states do. Plus, some states have laws just as tough as Utah.
But some bar owners feel church officials are overstepping their bounds by taking a position. David Morris owns Piper Down and is a member of the Utah Hospitality Association.
“It’s frustrating to hear someone who’s not in this business that this business is OK and we don’t need to change anything in this business,” Morris said.
Morris believes many of Utah’s liquor laws are fair but says the Zion Curtain and wait time for liquor licenses make doing business in Utah frustrating.