Drink while you wait? Commission works to clarify Utah liquor law

Jul 30, 2013

Does walking into a restaurant mean you intend to order something to eat? That’s the question Utah’s liquor control panel discussed Tuesday.

The state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is working to clarify a Utah law that prohibits patrons from ordering alcohol unless they purchase food as well.

The law requires that patrons intend on ordering food if they purchase alcohol.

A new rule could require restaurant servers to get verbal confirmation from patrons that they intend to order food – something critics say makes for an unfriendly business environment.

Credit attorneygeneral.utah.gov

Laura D’Hulst is a manager at the Union Grill in Ogden. She says most customers order drinks while looking at the menu and says servers usually don’t ask if patrons plan on ordering food later on.

"Our assumption is when somebody orders a drink when they have a menu in front of them – because often people will order a beer or glass of wine while they’re looking at the menu – you don’t have to ask them if they’re planning on having dinner," she said. "You don’t have to verbally say that. We’re assuming, because they’re looking at the menu that they are going to.”

The new rules could require servers to get confirmation from guests that they intend to order food when ordering alcohol – a step D’Hulst says only complicates the dining experience.

“To me it’s just an annoyance," she added. "We’re not a bar; we’re a restaurant. People are intending to eat and it’s just one more layer of the Utah laws being annoying and outdated.”

DABC spokeswoman Vickie Ashby says the new administrative rule will try to clarify a diner’s confirmation to order food.

“What is confirmation? Said Ashby. "If they take the menu from you is that a confirmation they’re going to eat? If they nod, is that a confirmation? If a party of six walks in, do you have to get confirmation from each one? There are a lot of scenarios that were discussed today which is why they want to take more time on how to draft this.”

The commission is accepting public comment, and will meet again to discuss the issue on Aug. 27.