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Leave liquor laws alone

Utah's liquor laws are fine just as they are. The majority of Utahns reaffirmed that position in a recent Deseret News poll. While 35 percent of those polled feel the laws are too restrictive and should be changed, 61 percent believe they are accommodating enough as is.

They are right.The poll had as its focal point the 2002 Olympics. Some Olympic and tourism officials are concerned about how visitors will react to the liquor laws when they descend on the Wasatch Front for the Games. There is no need for concern or alarm.

Trying to put a new face on Utah for a two-week period to impress out-of-state and out-of-country visitors not only would be unwise and counterproductive, it would backfire. The Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau found that out when it provided bottles of locally brewed beer in goodie bags for 200 or so journalists during an Olympic Media Summit last October.

Utah won the Olympic bid in part because of its image, not in spite of it. The Olympic Bid Committee was wise to state in 1994 that if Salt Lake City won the bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics, it need not change itself in a strained effort to please athletes and spectators who come from elsewhere.

The International Olympic Committee delegates, representing many and varied nations of the world, chose Salt Lake City as it is, a city distinguished by its attractive standards and healthy lifestyle.

The advocates of liberalized liquor laws have been trying since then to make it easier for visitors to obtain drinks at a variety of private clubs. They reason that people from other states and countries, particularly members of the media, will spread a negative image of the state worldwide and that eventually tourism and other sectors of the economy will suffer.

The fact is Utah's liquor laws succeed in making alcoholic beverages available while not encouraging their consumption. As a result, Utahns are less likely to be involved in alcohol-related automobile accidents, tragedies that will affect an estimated 40 percent of all Americans during their lifetimes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Utahns are also less likely to suffer the other ill effects of alcohol, including debilitating diseases, work-related accidents and family disruptions.

Because of that, proposals to liberalize current Utah liquor laws, whether they be tied to the Olympics or not, should be opposed by the Legislature.