Utah’s new alcohol rules limit stores to 2 beer displays

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Grocery and convenience stores in Utah that are already limited to selling only lower alcohol beer will face additional restrictions intended to curb excessive in-store advertising and consumer confusion.

New rules that were buried in a massive liquor overhaul bill that passed last year will restrict stores to only two beer displays, The Salt Lake Tribune reported last week.

The stores that sell beer containing 4 percent alcohol by volume must obtain off-premise state licenses, requiring stores to pay a $325 fee and submit floor plans of where beer will be sold and stored. Stores will also be required to post signs in fonts of a certain size at each beer display, warning customers that the beverages contain alcohol.

Lawmakers tightened the display rules in an effort to prevent confusion between nonalcoholic beverages and flavored beers and hard ciders, which might appear similar.

They also didn’t like when beer was displayed all over the store,” said Dave Davis, president of the Utah Retail Merchants Association, adding that cross-merchandising — like placing certain snacks next to the beer just before the Super Bowl — was also distasteful to some lawmakers.

The stores must acquire the licenses from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control before March 2019. Previously, stores only had to get permission from cities to sell lower alcohol beer.

By requiring the state license, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control received funding to hire five new compliance officers to ensure stores are following the law, said Stephne Hanson, the department’s off-premise beer manager.

Hanson said she has been working with the Utah Retail Merchants Association and large grocery retailers to ensure stores will meet the license deadline.

“We’re not here to shut people down,” Hanson said. “But we need everyone to get licensed, or beer comes off the shelves.”

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