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LEHI POURS BID FOR LIQUOR STORE DOWN THE DRAIN

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The City Council chased spirits out of Lehi without so much as a hiccup Tuesday night.

Lehi resident Morgan Child proposed opening a "package agency," an independently owned, state-licensed liquor store. It differs from a state-operated liquor outlet in that it's not staffed by state employees. The proprietor, however, is required to buy alcohol solely from the state, which would also set prices."It is a legitimate business," Child told the council.

But council members thought otherwise. They swiftly and unanimously declined to give Child written consent to operate the store, a step necessary for him to obtain a permit from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Child's request was doomed from the start. Mayor Bill Gibbs said prior to Tuesday's council meeting that he wasn't "in love with the idea" of having a liquor store in the city. Council members expressed similar opinions.

The nearest liquor store to Lehi is in neighboring American Fork. Located a block west of the police station, it's the only one in north Utah County.

"It's one busy place," said Police Chief John Durrant. But, he added, the privately owned store presents no problems to the city. "Ours has been an excellent business to have."

Ken Wynn, director of the alcoholic beverage control department, described the American Fork store as a "good operation" that does high volume.

State-contracted package agencies are sprinkled throughout the state. Some are combined with drug stores or convenience stores. Some stand alone. Contracts can be canceled by the state or the owner with 30 days' notice.

"They are generally profitable," Wynn said.

The state, however, isn't pushing a store in Lehi. "We won't put an outlet where local authorities don't want it," Wynn said.

Applications to open a new stores are infrequent. Wynn said he could think of only two requests in the past five years.

That could be changing. With the Olympics nearly in hand and growth skyrocketing in Utah Valley, there could be others like Child. "He's a step ahead of everyone," Wynn said.

Child said after Tuesday's meeting the idea isn't dead and that he plans to pursue it further.

City planners said they aren't sure if a liquor store fits into Lehi's commercial zoning ordinance, but that it could possibly be a conditional use.