Families of drunk driving victims fight possible new Utah liquor license legislation

Feb 26, 2024, 5:00 PM

hit and run crashes...

FILE: An Angel bike given to the family of Eli Mitchell in April, 2023. Mitchell was hit and killed by a drunk driver in West Jordan in 2022. Now, families who lost someone to drunk driving are protesting a bill that would increase the number of liquor licenses issued by the state of Utah. (Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Art Brown is the President of the Utah chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  His grandson was killed when police said a drunk driver left a bar intoxicated and caused a car crash. 

He joined other grieving family members at the Utah legislature recently to fight against HB548, a bill that, among other things, would increase the number of alcohol licenses issued by the state.

Brown spoke alongside Glendon Mitchell, who also lost a grandson to drunk driving.

“We both testified at the hearing the other day that it is a big safety risk and they ought to re-look at what they’re doing,” said Brown

Despite the opposition, the bill increasing Utah liquor licenses passed on Friday.

Bill would also increase Utah profit on liquor, raise beer tax

If it became law HB548 would also increase the state’s profit on its liquor inventory and raise the tax on beer.

According to the bill’s language, the additional money would create salaries for three additional alcohol-related enforcement officers dedicated to compliance. 

Rep. Jefferson Burton, R-Salem, is the bill’s sponsor.  He cites Utah’s growing population and growing economy as one of the main reasons for wanting more liquor licenses.

“Companies are going to want to come; restaurants and particularly full-service bars. So we have to look at that,” said Burton

The increased licenses will be rolled out over seven years.  Advocates against the legislation plan on coming back and fighting it at next year’s legislative session.

“All of Utah is at risk.  It’s a big public safety risk,” said Brown, “more impaired drivers on the streets.”

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Families of drunk driving victims fight possible new Utah liquor license legislation