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Utah House committee endorses bill to remove 'This is a restaurant' signs

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah restaurants would no longer have to inform customers that they are indeed restaurants — not bars — under a bill that sailed through a House committee Monday.

"I didn't think they were making a difference," said House Majority Leader Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville. "Every time you run a bill of that size, about two weeks after it goes into effect you realize there's a couple of things you would have done differently. That was one of them."

Wilson is referring to the massive alcohol reform bill he sponsored last year. It requires the more than 1,400 establishments licensed to serve alcohol in Utah to prominently display 8 ½-by-11-inch signs reading, "This premise is licensed as a BAR not a restaurant" or "This premise is licensed as a RESTAURANT not a bar."

Utah appears to be the first state in the country to require such notice. State officials say the intent is to avoid any confusion about what customers are walking into.

HB456, which the House Business and Labor Committee unanimously endorsed, would still require bars to post signs saying no one under 21 is allowed. No one spokes against the measure in the hearing.

The restaurant industry, which opposed the signs, was more than pleased with the proposed change.

"Oh my gosh, we're so excited. We're elated," said Melva Sine, Utah Restaurant Association executive director, adding the signs serve no purpose. "It's kind of almost an insult to your customers that they don't know what they're going into."

Compliance officers are to check for the signs during regular inspections, which take place once a year for alcohol permit holders. The law doesn't spell out a specific penalty for not having the sign posted, but the state alcohol commission treats it the same as other violations that might result in a suspended liquor license or fine.