Today in New West news: Utah passes liquor law changes, most visited national parks of 2016, and Montana Republican and Libertarian nominate candidates.
The state of Utah has an interesting relationship with alcohol. The Mormon religion prohibits believers from drinking, a practice that has filtered into much of the state’s culture. At the same time, however, with the rise of industries like craft brewing and micro distilling, as well as the boom in brewpubs, state and industry leaders are looking to adapt and mitigate Utah’s tough reputation.
Well, according to Utah Business, last-minute legislation is poised to loosen some of Utah’s liquor laws. Indeed, the legislation offers some—and we mean some—circumstances where restaurants can take down their “Zion Curtain,” the barrier erected around liquor dispensing stations. From Utah Business:
Previously, all liquor dispensing in restaurants (with the exception of bottle service) had to take place behind a “Zion Curtain” blocking the view. Now, you can take down the barrier with some caveats:
• You must not seat minors (under 21) within 10 feet of the dispensing area or you may build a 42-inch high “barrier” five feet away from the dispensing area, and then minors may sit anywhere outside of that.
• However, if you have a “grandfathered bar” (built prior to 2009; if you have one, you know who you are), you can sit minors within 10 feet of the dispensing area only if it’s the only available place for them to sit, and so long as they’re with an adult.
• Minors may temporarily pass through the 10-foot dispensing area (e.g., on the way to the toilet or exit).
The new laws will affect restaurants in other ways, for good or bad:
• Patrons must be seated to order drinks. You can have a drink while waiting for your table, but you do have to be seated.
• Restaurants must display “in a conspicuous space” an 8.5×11 sign stating the location is a restaurant and not a bar.
• Hours of service have changed: you can begin alcohol sales at 10:30 on weekends and holidays. Happy brunching.
• You can now serve beer until 12:59 a.m. on weekends and holidays. You still have to stop service of wine and liquor at 11:59 every night, no matter what the day.
• If you have a “dining club” license, you will have to decide by next year whether you want to be a bar or a restaurant. This is a huge issue, which could affect leases that don’t allow bars, forcing entities to become restaurants—with the more rigid 70/30 food-to-alcohol sales ratio.
• All managers must undergo additional training, to be drafted by the DABC. It may be online or in person.
• Liquor prices will rise 2 percent.
Looking at the region as a whole, the U.S. Department of the Interior recently released their visitation statistics for national parks in 2016. The numbers are astounding: 331 million recreation visits across the system, with over half of the high-scoring parks being found in the West. Indeed, five of the top ten parks are in Intermountain West states. The full numbers are below:
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee: 11,312,786.
2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: 5,969,811.
3. Yosemite National Park, California: 5,028,868.
4. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: 4,517,585.
5. Zion National Park, Utah: 4,295,127.
6. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana: 4,257,177.
7. Olympic National Park, Washington: 3,390,221.
8. Acadia National Park, Maine: 3,303,393.
9. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: 3,270,076.
10. Glacier National Park, Montana: 2,946,681.
Finally, zooming in on Montana, we previously reported that Montana Democrats had selected musician and three-term Montana Arts Council member Rob Quist as their nominee for a special election called by Governor Steve Bullock to replace U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke, who became Interior Secretary earlier this month. Now, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Republican and Libertarian parties have nominated their candidates.
The Republicans decided to run with Greg Gianforte, who previously lost to Governor Bullock in the 2016 Montana gubernatorial election. The Libertarian party, meanwhile, has nominated Mark Wicks, a cattle rancher and writer out of Inverness. From the Chronicle:
Wicks acknowledged the long odds against him.
“I know it’s an uphill battle,” he said. “I can see where I have a lot of advantages. My party is not fighting with anybody. The other parties are fighting back and forth. I’m going to stand up and show that Montana can send somebody back to Washington who can stand up for Montana.”
After being nominated, Wicks brushed off questions about his ability to mount a serious campaign. He said he would travel the state to convince voters that his candidacy represents an opportunity to set aside the hyper-partisanship in Washington.
With just $1,000 in the bank, Wicks has little chance of getting the necessary attention from voters across the expansive state.
He said he would draw votes from Republicans and Democrats alike, but rejected that he would act as a spoiler.
He took a jab at Gianforte, a wealthy Bozeman entrepreneur, who Wicks noted has the ability to self-finance his congressional campaign — as he did in his bid for governor. And Wicks asserted Quist as out of touch with the philosophical and political convictions of most Montanans.
“Each candidate has their own ideas about the direction we should take for our country, but Greg’s running for Congress to be on Montana’s side,” said the Republican’s spokesman, Shane Scanlon.
Quist said he welcomed Wicks in the race.
“It’s good for Montanans to have choices in this election and we are confident that Rob Quist will earn Montanans’ vote as an independent voice for Montana,” said Quist’s spokeswoman, Tina Olechowski.
Montana’s special election is scheduled for May 25, 2017.