HYDE PARK (AP) – A small city in northern Utah has voted to lift its long-standing ban on alcohol sales.
A ballot measure allowing alcohol sales in Hyde Park passed with 64 percent of the vote.
That opens the door for the city’s only convenience store to sell beer with an alcohol by weight of 3.2 percent, the maximum allowed in Utah in non-state-run liquor stores.
Residents will still have to drive about 5 miles to get alcohol and heavier beer in Logan at the nearest state-run liquor store.
Hyde Park, population 4,000, was among a handful of dry cities left in a state known for its teetotaling ways. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches its members to abstain from alcohol, a belief that has led to the state having famously strict liquor laws.
The proposal divided the conservative, mostly-Mormon town, with some city council members arguing that the town shouldn’t allow the sale of any “mind-altering” substances.
Backers said lifting the ban wouldn’t corrupt the city’s children, and would bring in more sales tax revenue.
The idea of lifting the ban in Hyde Park was not new, having been discussed but discarded several times in the past. It came up again late last year when the Maverik convenience store asked the council to consider lifting the ban. After much discussion, the council voted 3-2 to lift the ban.
A group of Hyde Park residents stepped in, gathering the 500 signatures needed to send the issue to a vote.
Mark Hurd, one of the councilmen who opposed lifting the ban, said the minuscule increase in sales tax revenue would be outweighed by the detrimental impacts on the members of the community. Hurd, a father of three, told The Associated Press that he believes kids are more prone to drinking alcohol the more they are exposed to it.
Carol K. Johnson, a member of the Hyde Park City Council, argued that lifting the ban would bring more sales tax revenue and possibly lure a grocery store in the future. She disagreed that it was a moral issue, saying people should have the freedom to buy what they want to buy, where they want to buy it.
Danielle Mattiussi, Maverik executive regional director of operations, said they would build a beer vault in the back corner of the store so that the alcohol wasn’t in the face of children.
The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control doesn’t track how many dry towns there are in Utah, because the agency only regulates hard alcohol and heavy beer. But Jim Olsen, president of the Utah Beer Wholesaler Association, estimates there are only about a five or six dry towns left in Utah _ down from about 12 two decades ago.