Last Friday, the Utah Liquor Commission quickly and pretty much silently washed its hands of any responsibility over Utah’s former anal-retentive liquor advertising laws. Earlier in the week, Judge David Sam, faced with a stern, professional rebuke from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver which overturned a previous ruling by him, signed a restraining order that effectively acknowledged that aspects of Utah liquor law are—surprise!!—bound by the United States Constitution. Sam had been fairly mocked for sitting on the case for four years. But last week, he was reportedly quite stern in his messages to the liquor commission and to the Attorney General’s Office to let this ruling stand.
On the surface, it was clear even four years ago that Utah’s rules regarding the advertising and display of alcoholic beverages promulgated by the Utah Liquor Commission were unconstitutional. Certainly the attorneys on the commission, like Chairman Nick Hales, could see the day coming when a higher authority would undo their handiwork. But, hey, four good years of terrorizing an entire industry must have been worth it in their view.
Beneath the surface, though, it isn’t over. Don’t be surprised if in a few months you read of some lackey legislator doing the dirty bidding on a new set of laws expressly written to keep “control” of that demon liquor, especially via new restrictions aimed at clubs and restaurants. You know it’s going to happen. In a statement produced by its ever-busy PR department, the LDS church said, “The current Utah law on the advertising and sale of alcoholic beverages is the product of longstanding efforts of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and many others.” The “many others” aren’t defined, but that’s the first time I ever recall the church laying claim to helping craft those or any other Utah laws. Sure, they can lobby and, sure, they can comment, and sure, they can advocate for temperance, but take credit?
Then give credit where credit is due: Portions of Utah’s liquor law were unconstitutional—and that doesn’t say much for a body that at times proclaims that the United States Constitution is divinely inspired. And for the past several decades, countless individuals and businesses have been permanently hurt by Utah’s continuing quest to control liquor in every aspect—so give credit there, too. There’s no space here to itemize everything, but briefly remember the words “mini” and “bottles” and you may understand just how it came to pass that Utah was a leader in the liver destruction business.
What you will soon see on these and other pages, perhaps even hear on the radio, will be advertisements for liquor and wine … just like there used to be before Utah’s aborted attempt at denying you honest and truthful information. It’s not the truth that hurts—it’s the denial of truth that hurts the most.