Drinking Rules!?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Utah's alcohol rules are quirky but not impenetrable. Here's what you need to know before you go bar- and club-hopping in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in the state.

* At restaurants, if you want to drink, the law says you must also order food.

* Private clubs serve alcohol without the food requirement, but they charge a membership fee. (Temporary memberships are valid for up to three weeks.) If you team up with a temporary or annual member, you can enter for free as her guest and save some cash.

* One person cannot order a pitcher of beer for himself, nor can an individual order two spirits at once (except at a private club). Also, a drink's primary liquor cannot exceed one ounce, which is measured by a metered device. Bartenders cannot make a double, but there's a loophole: Order a cocktail and a shot, and mix it yourself. However, a pending law would increase the portion size to 1.5 ounces but would prohibit clubs from serving an accompanying shot.

* Most beer on tap is of the Utah variety -- 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. Some bottled beers are stronger, so ask for a non-Utah or "heavy" beer.

* Salt Lake City permits only two private clubs or taverns per city block, so be sure to designate a driver or hail cabs.

* Happy hours are not allowed, but all-day drink specials are legal.

* Non-private clubs cannot start serving hard liquor, wine or heavy beer until noon. So, if you're craving a bloody mary with your eggs and toast, you'll have to settle for a red eye: beer and tomato juice.

For more information: Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, 801-977- 6800, http://www.abc.utah.gov.

-- A.S.

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