SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — A proposed bill filed by a Utah representative is raising concern on the part of owners and operators of establishments that serve alcohol.
“The state is trying to put all the accountability on the bars and restaurants,” said Randy Oveson, a local bar owner. “I don’t think it’s fair, feasible or American.”
Oveson is reacting to House Bill 247, filed last week by Rep. Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan). Ivory said the bill springs from the death of 13-year-old Eli Mitchell, who was killed in April of 2022 when a drunk driver hit him in a crosswalk.
Ivory said the facts of that case warrant a new look at whether restaurants and bars should shoulder more responsibility for over serving customers. Ivory notes the man who pled guilty in that case spent six hours in a bar before the crash.
“Bless their hearts, the Mitchell family wants to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Ivory said.
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Among other things, the bill — as it’s currently written — requires establishments to create and keep video records of alcohol being sold. Those records could then be retrieved by investigators looking into a drunk driving incident.
“If there was an accident involving alcohol and there’s more than a 0.5, you go to the last place of service and then we look at the evidence that was recorded, so we simply know,” said Ivory. “We’ve got something wrong when the State Bureau of Investigation and the Highway Patrol says they haven’t been able to prosecute overservice for decades because of the evidentiary standard.”
Oveson and other bar owners said it’s a big overreach that puts too much of a burden on them.
“There are a lot of privacy concerns and problems with storage and hardware,” Oveson said. “They have allocated no money for this and will be passing it onto the small businesses for video surveillance.”
Oveson also said the law fails to address where most people in Utah buy alcohol.
“They want to hold bars and restaurants accountable for selling them alcoholic beverages,” he said. “They don’t hold the state-run liquor stores accountable when people buy in bulk and can drink an entire bottle.”
State associations involved with the hospitality industry are also concerned.
A representative with the Utah Hotel and Lodging Association said they were opposed to the bill but didn’t want to comment on it publicly yet.
The Utah Restaurant Association sent a statement to 2News saying:
“We are going over the bill as currently drafted and we have several concerns. We will be speaking with the Sponsor, which we have not had the opportunity to do yet, but will make clear that the bill in its present form creates more problems than it solves. Representative Ivory has always been good to work with and we will notify him of our concerns relating to data and surveillance and issues regarding responsibility for intoxication.”
Ivory said he knows there are concerns with the bill and looks forward to discussing them with stakeholders.
“Okay this is where we are,” he said, referencing how the process is still in the early stages. “Help me with your proposal and let’s talk and see where we go with that and that’s how the process works.”