Utah's policy of cash-and-carry at its state-run liquor stores is under review by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Commissioners took under advisement a suggestion by Salt Lake lawyer Bert Dart that the state start accepting checks and credit cards at its liquor and wine outlets."The law says you must run this department on sound business principles to serve the needs of the public," Dart told commissioners Friday. "By refusing to accept credit cards, you're not acting as a sound business."

He said the policy was archaic and that it may be the only "cash-and-carry business left."

While there were reservations, commissioners did not reject the proposal outright.

"I'd like to get some input about it, to see what kind of community demand there is," said Commission Chairman Jerry Fenn.

But he cautioned there may be opposition to a change.

"Some people feel strongly that by allowing credit cards, you are allowing, or even encouraging, people to buy liquor on credit," he said. "And to a lot of people, that would be wrong."

But Dart pointed out that it's already possible to get a drink on credit at virtually any of the state's private clubs or restaurants with liquor licenses.

In fact, the clubs and restaurants use checks themselves when they buy liquor to stock their bars.The no-check policy applies only to individuals.

Commissioner Bonner Ritchie said accepting credit cards could add between 2.5 percent to 4 percent to business costs, which would cut into the department's profits. Money from alcohol sales in Utah fund the school lunch program in the state's public schools.

The use of plastic at liquor stores is not a new idea. Last year, officials considered allowing use of bank debit cards, in which the transaction would be electronically deducted from customers' accounts. Bureaucratic red tape stalled the project, and the company that proposed supplying the equipment withdrew.

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Dart said many of the commission's previous concerns have been addressed. For instance, he pointed out that technology now provides for almost instantaneous check approval.

While most Utahns know the state's cash-only policy, Operations Manager Dennis Kellen said the department has had "tons" of complaints from out-of-state visitors annoyed when they discover credit cards or checks aren't allowed.

Which is precisely the point, Dart said. He contacted the department after watching a customer in Park City fill a cart at a liquor store, only to be told his credit card was no good for the purchase.

"The look of incredulity on his face was something to behold," Dart said.

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