Utahns’ favorite hard seltzers may vanish from grocery and convenience store shelves because of proposed changes to the state’s liquor laws in the Utah Legislature.
A provision included in this year’s liquor reform bill would remove the sale of 39 of the 80 hard seltzers currently available in grocery and convenience stores including Truly, Coors and Bud Light hard seltzers.
The issue surrounding the hard seltzers boils down to the brewing process and what type of flavoring is used.
Seltzers containing glycol-based flavoring standards will remain in grocery stores. On the other hand, those containing ethyl alcohol-based flavoring will only be allowed in Utah’s state-run liquor stores.
“Utah has always had strange laws as it relates to alcohol,” said Kate Bradshaw, president of the Utah Beer Wholesalers Association. “We have yet to adopt the federal definitions and the definitions that are used by 49 other states.”
Bradshaw said that these hard seltzers could vanish from the state altogether, because stores do not have the shelf space to hold them.
“As a result, they may elect not to sell any of the seltzers, and if they do, something else would have to go,” Bradshaw said.
A similar bill passed in 2008 when the Utah Legislature abolished flavored malt beverages off grocery and convenience store shelves because legislators claimed sweetened beverages, such as Mike’s Hard Lemonade, targeted Utah’s youth.
Utah’s heavy-handed liquor regulations are a product of the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the state’s predominant religion. The Associated Press reported about 90% of the Utah Legislature are members of the Church. According to Fox 13, the current bill was crafted with input from groups opposed to liberalizing liquor laws and the church.
“The Church certainly lets us know their viewpoints on a myriad of alcohol issues,” Utah state Sen. Jerry Stevenson told Fox 13. “They have a belief that is totally anti-alcohol, but there are many other groups that I think lobbied much harder — I don’t think lobbied is the right word — but were much louder in that process.”
However, because of the rapid shift in demographics, Utah’s alcohol policy might become unsustainable.
“At some point, the Legislature will have to address the changes in the demographics of the state of Utah, taking into account the number of drinkers versus non-drinkers,” Stevenson said while debating the bill on the Senate floor.
Negotiations are ongoing with a vote yet to come.