A bill that would allow the state to build liquor stores at a faster pace was unanimously approved by the House Business and Labor Committee Wednesday.

House Bill 149 creates a land acquisition fund of $7.5 million for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The agency could use the pot of money to buy property in communities where new liquor stores are needed.

The fund should save the state money over the next five to 10 years as land and construction costs rise, said the bill sponsor, Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville.

“It’s far better to take these funds out now,” he said, “or we could end up paying double or triple” in a few years.

DABC Executive Director Sal Petilos said the fund will allow the DABC to “compress the time” it takes to build new stores.

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Creates a land-acquisition fund of $7.5 million that the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control can use to buy property for new liquor stores. - Read full text

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To get the money, the DABC would create a five-year building plan using retail market data. That plan would be subject to approval by the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, of which Froerer is co-chair.

The DABC currently has plans to build stores in Farmington and southwest Salt Lake County. This year the DABC also has asked the legislature to fund new stores in market areas surrounding Pleasant Grove and Taylorsville.

Tentative discussions also have been held about replacing stores on 400 South and Foothill Drive, both in Salt Lake City.

Jan. 10 • Let’s build liquor stores at a faster pace and save taxpayers money, Utah Republican says


When Utah opened its 45th liquor store in West Valley City last summer, it was the state’s first new retail outlet in seven years.

The lull in new store construction — at a time of record liquor sales — may seem pennywise, but it has cost the state money, says Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville.

Froerer has drafted House Bill 149, which is designed to accelerate the store-building process by giving the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control a pot of money to buy property, design and build new outlets and remodel existing ones. Froerer is suggesting the DABC get up to $15 million over the next two years — $10 million in 2018 and $5 million in 2019.

The proposal will be considered during the 2018 legislative session, which begins Jan. 22.

To get the money, the DABC would create a five-year building plan using retail market data. That plan would be subject to approval by the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, of which Froerer is co-chair.

“If we can put a plan into place and bring a store online every two or three years, we’re not scrambling and costing taxpayers more money,” he said.

The DABC must now go to the Legislature for funding every time it wants to purchase land or build a new store. Froerer said that process is slow and hampers the DABC’s ability to act quickly when purchasing property.

“Oftentimes, we end up with inferior locations and we are paying too much,” he said.

The seven-year gap between new liquor stores was unusual. Plans already are under way for a new retail outlet in Syracuse; the DABC also is looking for property and retail space for stores in Farmington and southwest Salt Lake County.

But even with those new stores, the state still needs at least 12 more in targeted areas — specifically along the Wasatch Front — to keep up with liquor sales and a growing population, according to a 2016 study conducted by Zions Public Finance, a division of Zions Bank.

Utah’s population, currently about 3 million, is expected to jump to 3.9 million in 2030 and 4.5 million by 2040, the study shows.

Liquor consumption also is rising. Utah’s per-capita consumption increased from 2.37 gallons in 2010 to 2.75 gallons in 2015, according to the Zions study. Nationally, consumption per capita also is increasing.

The state could have as many as 63 liquor stores under a legislative formula allowing for one liquor store for every 48,000 residents.

The DABC and lawmakers have tried to fund new stores annually, but cities often are unwilling to host the outlets — something officials have found surprising because liquor stores bring in millions in tax dollars to local communities.

According to the Zions study, communities receive 0.5 percent of total sales generated, while counties can receive 0.125 percent.

Hoping to appease conservative communities — but still serve drinkers in Utah — the DABC has tried to identify market areas, rather than individual cities, in hopes of finding communities willing to host new stores.