SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utahns are buying more alcohol at restaurants and state liquor stores, but ordering fewer drinks at bars.Liquor receipts at bars have declined by more than $419,000 since July, when the state did away with its one-of-a-kind membership fees.Some bar owners say the change has led to more patrons stopping by to eat, now that they don’t have to pay fees to get inside.”Club owners are telling us that more people are ordering food,” said John Freeman, deputy director of the Utah Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. “They’re confirming what they said would happen when they were pushing for a change in the law.”Dave Morris, owner of Piper Down in Salt Lake City, said his food sales have increased by $27,000 since July from the same time a year ago, while his alcohol sales have remained flat.”Instead of paying a membership fee, people are buying food,” said Morris, who runs billboards reminding people that membership fees are no longer required.Receipts at state liquor stores are up by 3.8 percent since July. Case sales are up by 6.2 percent, a sign that Utahns are buying lower-cost products, said Leonard Langford, the alcohol department’s director of finance.Although overall restaurant sales have declined this past year, liquor receipts at eateries are slightly up. Restaurants with full-service licenses, allowing all types of alcohol, reported a $100,000 increase in liquor sales since July. Alcohol sales at eateries with limited-service permits, allowing only beer or wine, were up by more than $93,000Overall, liquor sales this fiscal year totaled $267 million, up from $257 million in 2008.The state’s liquor monopoly brought in nearly $100 million in taxes to state and local coffers. The state controls the sales and distribution of alcohol in Utah.
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