Utah could add 19 more liquor stores to meet population and demand

SALT LAKE CITY -- A new study claims that Utah could add as many as 19 liquor stores to keep up with population growth and consumer demand.

The study was presented to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control's commission meeting on Tuesday.

"It strikes me, the more that we make it available, the better the revenue stream to the state," said DABC Commission Chairman John Nielsen.

Year after year, Utah reports record-breaking sales of liquor despite its reputation as a teetotaling state. In 2015, Utahns on average consumed 8.2 million gallons of alcohol. The demand matches population growth, which is largely along the Wasatch Front and in southwestern Utah.

Scott Aylett, a financial analyst with Zions Public Finance, Inc., said Utah County has the largest growth and need.

"Springville, Pleasant Grove and Riverton, when it came to population, those three were always ranked in the top three based on their current, projected and absolute population growth," he told the DABC commission.

The study also recommended stores be considered in Sandy, Layton, Taylorsville, Roy, Provo, Bountiful, Orem, Magna, Logan, St. George, Hurricane, Tooele and Cedar City. Aylett said stores could cover several market areas (for example, a Riverton store could cover parts of Utah County).

The study mirrors a similar one conducted in 2013 by the University of Utah on population growth and the need for liquor stores.

Utah law allows for one liquor store per 48,000 citizens. The Utah State Legislature decides any future construction, but increasing the sale and supply of alcohol is expected to face push back from more conservative lawmakers.

DABC Commission Vice-Chairman Jeff Wright said he believed additional liquor stores are needed.

"I think there's unmet public demand," he said. "We have good regulation to keep the public safe."

Wright said DABC commissioners have already had conversations with lawmakers about additional liquor stores, expressing their support for it.

"This is certainly a shot across the bow that we need to start to whittle down that number," he told FOX 13. "Are we going to get 19? No, we're not going to get 19. Could we get four? Five? Absolutely, and we should."

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