Extra-strength wines will not be sold at a downtown state liquor store for two months this summer to see if the beverage favored by the drinking down-and-out has been contributing to area crime.
The Utah Commission on Alcoholic Beverage Control agreed Thursday to go along with a suggestion by Mayor Palmer DePaulis' task force on the homeless to halt sales of so-called fortified wine at 205 W. Fourth South from July 1 to Aug. 31.The targeted wines, such as "Thunderbird," have potent grain alcohol added to raise the alcohol content above the 12 percent level that results from natural fermentation. They are among the cheapest alcoholic beverages available, costing only several dollars a bottle.
In a letter to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the mayor outlined goals for the study, which will be coordinated by Errol Remington, treatment and rehabilitation specialist for the Salt Lake County Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Services Division.
During the two-month ban on fortified wine sales at the Fourth South liquor store, the number of complaints and arrests for public intoxication, theft and vandalism will be monitored.
Area merchants will also be asked to track their sales during the ban, and other downtown liquor outlets will keep an eye on the amount of fortified wines and vodka sold.
The study is expected to be completed in October and will focus on the area from Second South to Fifth South and Main Street to Fifth West. The Liquor Commission will have the final authority over whether the ban on fortified wines becomes permanent.
Supporters of the ban hope that making it more difficult to get fortified wine in the downtown area most frequented by the down-and-out will reduce certain crimes while improving business.
But commissioners were told the study may show that banning the beverage has either little effect or unpleasant side effects. Dennis Kellen, operations manager for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said the ban could lead to "bootlegging."
Kellen said fortified wines could be purchased from other liquor stores and then illegally sold at a profit to drinkers used to buying their wine from the Fourth South liquor store.
Commissioners also tentatively approved regulations that spell out how restaurants must implement the state's liquor reform law. The regulations will go into effect on June 3 unless the commission receives any complaints about them before the deadline for written comment ends on June 2.
The commission amended the regulations to spell out an implied requirement that the number of drinks consumed in a restaurant waiting area be reported to the dining room server.
In other action, commissioners approved the second restaurant license in St. George. Sullivan's Rococo Steakhouse, located near the community's airport, joins the Holiday Inn in being able to serve liquor with meals.