Salt Lake City Olympics and Drinking

I’ve been to Salt Lake City and Park City twice. While I think the region is very pretty, I was taken aback by the weird laws there. Specifically, the alcohol laws. I had about an inch of ale left in a glass and the waitress wouldn’t put down my second glass until I finished the first. She said it’s the law. I had to order food to get a drink. The margarita I had at a different restaurant was the weakest I’ve ever had. They actually had meters on the bottles that measured out exactly one shot of alcohol, unlike here where the bartender pours into the jigger, dumps the jigger into the glass, and continues to pour from the bottle. I guess you can get around these bizarre laws by joining a “club”, but I usually don’t just go out to drink and I don’t drink that much anyway. (Still, I find it odd that in other states I can’t just walk into a supermarket and buy spirits.)

Now “the world” is going to visit SLC. There will be people who routinely drink beer, wine and spirits as part of their daily cultures. I can imagine a German tourist saying, “Was meinen Sie, dass Ich kann kein Bier kaufen?” (Sorry. It’s been a long time since I’ve spoken German. :o ) Or a Frenchman or Italian who can’t understand why he can’t have a glass of wine.

GQ: How will this be handled? Will the laws be suspended during the Olympics? Will there be “international zones” where alcohol consumption will be permitted? Will people simply be told they can’t drink, when they’ve been doing so responsibly their “entire lives”?

Having lived in Salt Lake City, I can sympathize. But you must have noticed that things were “looser” in Park City than in Salt Lake (A great Pat Bagley editorial cartoon showed the liquor stores and hot tubs of Park City, along with a sign that read “Park City: In Utah but not Of Utah”). I strongly suspect that they’ll loosen up even more when the Olympics are in full swing. It’s already much easier to get a “membership” in the private clubs (what the real world would call a “bar”, serving things stronger than 3.2 beer) in the downtown hotels than elsewhere. This will become easier and more widespread. Restaurants will not adhere so tightly to the letter of the law. Heck, they might actually CHANGE some laws to bring in more business.

They’ve already changed the roads and facilities to accommodate the Olympics, I’d not be surprised to find them changing the social drinking practices. The thing is, it will be hard to go back. I’ve told my friends that having the Olympics there would profoundly change SLC. I wonder if they appreciated that when they went out of their way to get the bid.

The mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, has said that the liquor laws should be changed for the games, but I don’t know if he has made a formal proposal to the state. (I think he also favors loosening the laws on a permanent basis.)

The LDS Church has come out against changing the laws. From their news release:

(hijack) Sorry…I have to say this.

You need to visit New Orleans, Louisiana.
Home of 15 year old drunks, the highest DWI (DUI if you are not from here) rate in the US I’m guessing, and the only place in this country where you can have drive through daiquiri shops. I know some of you are in shock. Bascially if you look the age you are served. There seem to be very few instances where they even ask for ID.
We met some wonderful folks from Pennslyvania while on vacation and they were shocked that I even entertained the thought of asking for a go cup since we decided to leave a restaurant right after having been served a round of drinks. Can you beleive? I have lived in Louisiana all my life and it was second nature to me. We happened to be in Cozumel, so they did give us go cups and you could walk down the street with your drink, just like home. I am not a heavy drinker, but it never occurred (sp?) to me that things were so vastly different across this nation. The Salt Lake City story shocked me. By the way, I am going to Hawaii in May, am I going to be shocked there too? Anything I need to know?

Sorry for the intrusion…Back to the Salt Lake City story.

[continuing the hijack]
Ah, New Orleans! My favourite city! Cheap beer, great food and music, nice people. I’d live there if I didn’t like cold weather so much! (The first time I was there I was working on a film – in August!)
[end hijack]

So the Church opposes changing the laws? Supposedly there is a seperation of Church and State in this country. Why not put it to a vote? And as far as “protecting the public health”, studies show that moderate alcohol intake can prevent heart disease.

Good for Rocky Anderson!

The biggeast culture shock of my life was getting on a plane in SLC in November and getting off the plane in New Orleans a couple of hours later. Not only did I go from cold winter to sultry humid heat, but I went from SLC’s draconian liquor laws to the land of take-away drinks. From a place where strippers can’t peel past a bathing suit to Bourbon Street, where they’ve set up mirrors near the doorways so you can see the strippers from the street. In the space of four hours I went from the land of private clubs to drinking my Hurricane from a paper cup as I walked down the street.

My experience is that these are ALMOST the extremes (SLC isn’t “dry”, like some places.

[slight hijack]
My wife went to my hometown of Grand Junction, CO, for the first time last summer. She asked if we could drive to Utah (30 miles away) just to say she’d been there.

We pulled over at the border to take pictures of the signs. One of them was advertising the 2002 Winter Olympics. What was funny was that all that could be seen around this sign with a winter scene was miles and miles of barren desert.[/slight hijack]

roseyray, I believe the drive-thru daquari shops are statewide, no? I remember hitting one when I visited friends in Shreveport a few years back.

Johnny, a seperation of church and state in Utah? You must be mistaken… I imagine some of the Utahans around here will be able to fill in this area.

But I wouldn’t see how it would be difficult to temporarily suspend the drinking laws just for the games, no? If the LDS is concerned about the longterm affects, why not just make the new laws effective for only the time frame of the Games? Would that be feasible, or even possible? Any legislators in the Teeming Millions?

Cal, I’m surprised that SLC has allowed direct flights to New Orleans… :wink:


I’m sure they could pass laws “for the duration of the Games”, but I think that just having the temporary suspension (and the other effects of the Games) are going to permanently mark the culture of Utah. I suspect a lot of Utahns are just now starting to realize that.

It won’t be that bad in SLC. From the times I’ve been there, staying in a hotel gets you membership to their bar [so you don’t have to buy food to drink]. Some hotels give free temporary memberships to nearby bars.

It would be easy for a promoter to set up with bars [buy bulk memberships] and sell a membership to a group of bars to tourists.

Places that did not join would still charge you an individual membership.

To answer the general question…
Yes the laws are quite ridiculous, and yes they will stay in place for the Olympics, except possibly the law that says you must join a ‘private club’ to get ‘real alcohol’.
Several years ago when SLC hosted the NBA all star game, they instituted a work-around. Basically, anybody that was in town and could produce a form of out-of-town identification was issued a ‘gold pass’. This basically allowed you to become a temporary (two week) member of any private club in the state. Oddly enough, the temporary membership concept has stuck around since then, but us residents have to pay a fee (usually $5, in addition to any cover at the club) to purchase them.

Now, nothing official has been said about another round of ‘gold passes’, and the church is doing their sanctimonious posturing on the issue, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this happens by the time the games roll around.

On the issue of Rocky Anderson (our mayor who supports liberalizing the liqour laws), god bless him. This state is almost exclusively Republican (read conservative), and it must stick in their craw that a liberal, former ACLU lawyer got elected to be mayor. He butts heads with the Mormon theocracy on every other issue, and, yes, seperation of church and state is merely an illusion here. The Division of Alcholic Beverage Control that decides what/when/where/and how we drink is composed completely of LDS non-drinkers. Which makes about as much sense as appointing a 38 year-old virgin to set the ‘community standards’ on pornography (oops, we did that, too).
For example:

All too often I see people in busy restaraunts order a beer when they still have 1/2 or more of their current drink left, probably thinking ‘Hey, it’ll be a while before the waiter comes back’…makes sense, right? Now does this law stop them from drinking more beer when the waiter returns promptly? No. Instead they say ‘Just a sec…’ and pound whats left of their current drink. They are actually drinking more, and faster (which is what leads to intoxication). I guess that’s what you get when the people who make the laws know nothing about the subject. Listen to them tell it, and their laws are responsible for
protecting the people from risky behavior, when if fact they are just encouraging it.

Oh, I could go on and on about the LDS/gentile issues in this state (touchy subject, obviously)… but I’ll leave it for another time.

Thanks for playing.

The state of NC has pretty weird alcohol laws too. (as do other Southern states.) In NC they also have the rule about “private clubs” - if a place does not sell a lot of food they must be a private club to sell mixed drinks. Anybody can sell beer and wine. Here the state runs the stores that sell liquor. There are not a lot of those stores around so you might have to drive a ways to get to one.

I have often wondered how much beer the Utah Jazz sell at their games, because most pro teams make a lot of money on beer sales. I guess they must make their money on some other stuff.

Yes, Connor the drive thru daiquiri shops are throughout the entire state. The Mall of Louisiana in Baton Rouge even sells them at the food court, right next to the carousel for the kids. Truly amazing!!!
Louisiana basicallly has no liquor laws!!