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Alcohol commissioner warns businesses

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The Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission chairman warned businesses Friday against taking out liquor advertisements pending a judge's order.

"Today it is still against the law," Nicholas Hales said after the commission's monthly meeting. "Right now there is no injunction in place, so that would probably be a pretty unwise endeavor."

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Utah's ban on wine and liquor ads likely violates free-speech rights. The three-judge panel instructed U.S. District Judge David Sam to impose a temporary injunction halting the state's enforcement of the law. Sam last year denied a restraining order to a group of tavern owners who in 1996 filed a lawsuit challenging the statute.

Alcohol commissioners, meeting behind closed doors Friday, discussed their legal options, which include asking for a rehearing and appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. They did not talk about the issue during the open meeting.

Salt Lake attorney Brian Barnard, who is representing the plaintiffs, said Thursday that in his opinion, someone could put up a billboard today promoting liquor. The judge, he said, has asked him to draft a restraining order.

A scheduling hearing is set for Aug. 2.