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Most oppose power to ban alcohol sales
72% would deny authority to local governments

SHARE Most oppose power to ban alcohol sales
72% would deny authority to local governments

An overwhelming percentage of Utahns believe local governments should not have the authority to ban alcohol sales, according to a Deseret News poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates.

In fact, 50 percent said "definitely not," and another 22 percent said probably not. That 72 percent compares to only 15 percent of those polled who said local governments definitely should have that authority, while 11 percent said they probably should.That opposition apparently has nothing to do with religion or politics. Some 65 percent of LDS Church members were opposed to giving local governments the authority to ban alcohol sales.

And 67 percent of those who said they were somewhat conservative, and 58 percent of those who said they were very conservative, were likewise opposed.

Bryan Larson, a citizen activist who has been fighting alcohol sales in Draper, called the poll results "strange," given the state's traditionally strong opposition to alcohol and support for local self-determination.

"If communities want to prohibit alcohol or porno houses or whatever, they should have the right to do that," Larson said. "At the same time, other communities will vote to legalize it. It all boils down to peoples' right to choose."

The citizens group, called Citizens for a Safer Draper, recently pressured the city council into denying local consent for a golf club there to sell liquor. Now, the group has launched a citizen petition to force a city ordinance banning all new alcohol licenses.

"The initiative is not to prohibit consumption (of alcohol) but to restrict the sale," Larson said. "The alcohol police aren't going to kick in peoples' front doors, but that's the way some people portray it."

In addition to the citizen initiative in Draper, the Lindon City Council last week passed a temporary moratorium on giving its consent to new liquor licenses. North Logan recently denied its consent to establishments seeking licenses to sell liquor in restaurants.

And the tiny Garfield County town of Boulder, which banned all liquor sales, is embroiled in a legal battle with the owner of a lodge that sought a liquor license for its restaurant that caters to out-of-area tourists. That case is currently before the Utah Supreme Court.

Utah, the final state to ratify the 21st Amendment overturning Prohibition, regulates sales of alcoholic beverages more than just about any other state. Licenses to sell alcohol are issued by the state, but those licenses are almost always contingent upon local consent.

State law also prohibits the sale of alcohol near schools, churches and parks.

Larson predicted more and more communities would seek to restrict or ban alcohol sales, adding there is a nationwide temperance movement sparked by people of all faiths. Some regions, like the Texas Panhandle, already prohibit alcohol sales.

"People are waking up to the fact that alcohol is not a good deal for anyone," Larson said.

The Deseret News poll of 413 Utahns was conducted Dec. 28-30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.