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For those of you who are confused about Utah's liquor laws and cannot explain them to your out-of-state visitors, here is an explanatory column designed with the cooperation of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. This is a good time to do it because of the most recent changes made by the Legislature and just signed into law by the governor.

Utah is one of 18 states known as "control states," meaning that the distribution of alcoholic beverages is under state control rather than private enterprise.Utah law splits alcoholic beverages into two categories: liquor and beer. The term liquor means distilled spirits, wine and wine-based products, and beer that is more than 3.2 percent alcohol. Most production-line beer is between 3.2 and 3.9 percent alcohol and thus falls under the definition of liquor under Utah law. These products are sold only in state-owned or state-authorized outlets.

The terms beer and light beer mean all beer and beer-based products that are 3.2 percent alcohol or less. They are generally available throughout the state in grocery and convenience stores, cafes and beer bars, as well as state-licensed liquor outlets.

Philosophically, Utah's alcoholic-beverage policy is intended not to promote liquor sale or consumption but to regulate the sale of such products to meet the demand of those who drink, while protecting the interest and rights of those who do not.

Six types of state outlets exist:

1. State stores - located in more populous areas, offering a large selection of liquor products for consumption off the premises by people at least 21 years of age - who must buy with cash. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., they are closed on Sundays, holidays and election days. (A few are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

2. Package agencies - generally smaller, with smaller selection, located in most of the larger hotels, lodges and resort areas, and in less populous areas. Products are sold for consumption off the premises by people at least 21 years of age. Hours vary, but most operate from noon to 11 p.m. and are closed on Sundays, holidays and election days.

3. Restaurants - allowing storage, sale, service and consumption of all alcoholic beverages on the premises. Such beverages may not be removed from the premises and may be purchased only with food.

The primary liquor in a mixed drink may be dispensed from any size bottle but only in 1-ounce quantities through an approved calibrated metered dispensing system. Wine may be sold by the bottle or the glass, up to 5 ounces. Heavy beer may be served in original containers not larger than one liter. Light beer may be served in open containers not larger than 2 liters and on draft.

Brown-bagging is banned. The only beverage that patrons may bring into a restaurant with a liquor license is cork-finished wine, which must be served by restaurant personnel.

Alcoholic beverages may not be served or consumed at barlike structures. Instead they must be delivered by a server to the patron's table.

Liquor sales in restaurants are available from 1 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and from noon to midnight on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

4. Private clubs - the storage, sale, service and consumption of alcoholic beverages are allowed on the premises. Members may host an unlimited number of guests - but the guest must be accompanied by the host member. Visitors may purchase temporary two-week memberships for a minimum fee of $5, and then may host as many as five guests of their own.

Regulations about age, serving mixed drinks, wine, heavy and light beer, or bringing in beverages are the same as those designed for restaurants, with some exceptions: the purchase of food is not required, and patrons may consume alcoholic beverages anywhere on the premises, including at the bar.

Clubs serve liquor from 10 a.m. until 1 a.m., except on Sundays, when it is from noon to midnight.

5. On-premises beer retailer - may include restaurants, bowling alleys, golf courses, taverns and any food or beverage facility where beer is consumed on the premises. Hours are from 10 a.m. until 1.a.m. No person may bring any alcoholic beverage to the premises to consume it. Beer is the only type of alcoholic beverage served at these places.

6. Airport lounge - allowing storage, sale, service and consumption on the premises. These are open to the public to accommodate travelers to international airports. Consumers may order alcoholic beverages without having to order food as well. Alcoholic beverages purchased in the lounge may not be removed from the premises.

In summary, liquor may be purchased from state stores or package agencies for consumption off the premises. Mixed drinks and wine may be purchased in state-licensed restaurants, private clubs or airport lounges for consumption on the premises. Beer may be purchased in taverns, cafes, bowling alleys, club houses at golf courses, sporting arenas, etc.

That's as simple as I can make it.