SALT LAKE CITY — Bar patrons in Utah, which has some of the nation's strictest liquor laws, will soon be able to get 50 percent tipsier off one cocktail. Be warned, though: no more "sidecars."
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The amount of liquor allowed in the standard cocktail will increase from 1 ounce to 1.5 ounces after the Legislature approved the first major changes in years to the state's liquor laws. That's the standard used in most other states and countries.
Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman has said he wants the change so Utah won't appear so strange to the rest of the world. Utah is the only state to limit the amount of liquor allowed in a standard shot, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
And while the change is intended to improve the state's image, the bill also makes some alterations that many people may find downright odd.
Utah will become the only state to ban wine coolers and flavored malt beverages from grocery stores. Instead, they will be sold only in state liquor stores.
"I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these alcopops are directed to our kids. It is a gateway drug," said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab.
Restrictions on wine coolers were almost guaranteed after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said last month that it supported doing so. Sixty percent of the state's residents are Mormon, but 80 percent to 90 percent of lawmakers are.
In addition, bar patrons' option of ordering an additional 1-ounce shot to pour in their drinks, known locally as a sidecar, is being eliminated. Customers will still be able to order shots while they have a drink on the table, but only if it is of a liquor that's not already in their drink.
In other words, customers drinking a margarita couldn't order a shot of tequila, but they could take shots of vodka.
Frequently, a group of customers will order the same shot to drink together. Bartenders and waiters will now have to keep track of what liquor is already in each customer's drink before they can serve up the shot.
Those who deal with tourists say the changes will do little to improve the state's image and will leave many people just as confused as ever.
"If anything, I think it's going to make things worse because they're mixing alcohol," said Cristin Poloni, a marketing executive for a Salt Lake City ski rental company. "People are going to be completely perplexed, especially tourists."
Residents can take comfort that at least one liquor law won't change: Doubles will remain illegal.
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