When it goes into effect next month, Salt Lake County's new restaurant tax may not be added to the price of hot dogs and drinks purchased in the arena being built by Larry H. Miller.

County officials find that ironic."The reason we needed to implement the tax was to counter the competition from the Miller arena," said County Commission Chairman Jim Bradley.

Once it opens, the new arena will host basketball and hockey games as well as concerts - all things that used to be held in the county-owned Salt Palace. The tax, which adds 1 percent to the price of a meal in a restaurant, will help maintain the Salt Palace Convention Center and fine arts facilities in lieu of the money the sporting events and concerts used to bring in.

But the Utah State Tax Commission issued a proposed rule this week that would exempt vendors, including those at sporting events and those along the streets of downtown Salt Lake City, from the tax.

The rule also would exempt stores that specialize in items not considered a meal, such as popcorn or cookies.

County officials fear the rule, if it becomes official, will drastically lower the amount of money they obtain through the new tax. They also believe the rule is inconsistent and confusing.

"If you buy a dessert from a restaurant it will be taxable, but if you buy it from Mrs. Fields Cookies it's not," said Deputy County Attorney Karl Hendrickson.

County officials had intended for the tax to apply to vendors along the street and in arenas, as well as to stores that specialize in desserts. They had hoped to garner $4.4 million in the first year.

State lawmakers passed the tax earlier this year, giving each county the option of assessing it. The money is to go toward tourism, rec-reation and conventions.

"As we recall the arguments used in passing this tax, this is not what the Legislature intended," County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi said, referring to the proposed rule. "A lot of groups tried to pass amendments to exclude themselves, and they failed."

The proposed state rules also would exempt grocery and convenience store delicatessens, food booths at festivals and movie theater concessions.

County officials will meet with the Tax Commission on June 12 to express their feelings. The rule becomes effective July 1, but the Tax Commission will accept comments about it until the end of July and may decide to change the rule, said spokeswoman Janice Perry.