Not-So-Dry Utah | Urban Living
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Not-So-Dry Utah



This past August, Utah reported that sales at its state-run and state-owned liquor stores brought in more than $517 million during fiscal year 2020-21. That was a 3.4% increase over the previous year, which included the initial, pre-vaccine era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Higher alcohol-by-volume (ABV) beer, wine and liquor are available at Utah's 41 state liquor stores, which are generally open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to anywhere between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., depending on location. All stores are closed on Sundays. Most of the profits, after expenses, go into the state's general fund (a portion of liquor earnings is earmarked for programs like public school lunches and underage drinking prevention).

Drag star Bianca Del Rio recently bemoaned on stage during her standup comedy show at the Capitol Theatre that "There's no liquor in Utah on Sundays!" My wife and I knew better and brought her a bottle of Five Husbands vodka as a pre-show gift to prove that we aren't all Lame-anites in this town. You can get a cocktail on Sundays here, you just can't go to a liquor store to buy the booze for your drink.

Del Rio should know to avoid touring in Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, as they are all dry states by default—counties must specifically authorize the sale of alcohol in order for it to be legal and subject to their own state's liquor laws. There are seven states who own the liquor stores and the exclusive right to sell liquor: Alabama, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia.

We aren't a dry state at all. A dry state is one where the manufacturing, distribution, importation and sale of alcohol is illegal or extremely restricted. While no U.S. state is completely dry today, dry counties within the states still exist.

If you travel abroad, there are 14 countries where drinking alcohol is illegal, most of which are under Islamic law. If you get caught drinking, you could go to jail and/or be deported immediately!

Yes, it can be a pain in the ass to get a drink in Utah when and where you want it. With the addition this summer of state-run liquor stores in Herriman, Saratoga Springs, Farmington and Taylorsville, more Utahns have better access to their booze. The state also listened to Utah's Jewish community this year, which requested year-round access to kosher wines and liquors in Salt Lake and Park City stores—with better signage to point out what's actually been labeled kosher—rather than just a few choices around the High Holidays.

Our new airport managed to convince the Utah Legislature last year that it needed 13 licenses for lounges, and that liquor could be sold on any day from 8 a.m. until midnight. Alcohol licenses in the state are granted per population of a specific area, whereas the airport's licenses are related to the number of passengers passing through each year. So as your Thanksgiving and Christmas travel plans are getting made, know that whether your destination is wet or dry, you can survive Salt Lake's new airport hell with a pre-board "bloody"!