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New bill allows 4% beer to stay on shelves for awhile

Stronger beer is available at supermarkets, which might take away some customers from state liquor stores. Credit: Steven Breinholt, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – During the last legislative session, Utah lawmakers approved a bill allowing grocery stores to sell beer with 4% alcohol content by weight starting next month. But any push for even stronger beer will have to wait a couple of years.

Speaking at the Utah Legislative Alcohol Policy Summit at the State Capitol, Representative Tim Hawkes (R-Centerville) said there are concerns about whether the higher alcohol content will lead to increases in drunk driving.

“I think for at least two [or] three years now, we’re just going to wait, watch, and see how that plays out. And then hopefully we can make a more informed decision on whether we’ve moved to the right place,” Hawkes said.

Hawkes also worries about what this means for underage drinking, as beer is usually kids’s first alcoholic drink.

But he acknowledged that many store owners still want to sell 4.8 beer because they worry national brewers will continue phasing out lower strength products.

“Certainly, we want to be sensitive to the economics of it, but always that has to be balanced on the other side with the potential negative social impacts of this rather unique product,” Hawkes says.

Hawkes says Utah’s alcohol policies are not unique.

“Right now we’re very much like Scandinavian countries. We’re about where Sweden and Denmark are,” Hawkes says.