Friday, April 25, 2008
My week in the Islamic Republic of Utah, or, a handy guide to attempting intoxication in Salt Lake City
There it is people. I think I was still technically in Utah airspace when Delta airlines served me my first real beer in a week, even if it was lukewarm. I spent this week in Salt Lake City, a very pretty town right at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, but not a place known for good cocktails or even decent beer. In fact, I actually felt like I had left the United States and entered an Islamic republic of some sort given the draconian liquor laws imposed by the state of Utah. I understand that certain religious groups in Utah are teetotalers (although I find that strange as Jesus drank wine), and that there are a signifigant number of people opposed to the consumption of alcohol in the state. However, aren't we as Americans supposed to stand up for the little guy? Sure, you can get a drink in the state of Utah, but their laws are so strict that you wouldn't want to. First, you either have to go to a restaurant for a meal OR you can join a private club (I paid $6 for a 3 week membership). Then, the state of Utah dictates that beer must be 3.2% (watery) or hard drinks can contain no more than 1 oz of booze. They may have some way of getting over the 1oz rule with some liqueurs being labeled "flavoring", but the gin and tonics and the rum and cokes I saw being poured in Utah were a 1 oz shot measured by a Berg System. Oh yeah, by the way, the great closed minds in Utah require every establishment in the state to use a Berg system or similar (for those unfamiliar with a Berg System, its a pourspout and control method that only allows a 1 oz pour), AND the state makes every establishment maintain books accounting for every ounce of liquor in the house. Failure to maintain accurate enough records results in a big fine for the bartender and a suspension of the liquor license for the establishment. Apparently, it is illegal to free pour or give any alcohol away in the state of Utah. I guess it could be worse, after all, I could have had to live through prohibition. I understand why society regulates alcohol, even if I do think that as Americans, we have some Puritanical instincts that we haven't fully worked through. Utah's laws and regulations however, interfere with my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and why? To kowtow to a religious majority? I thought that was the very thing that the United States stood for. Freedom from the oppression of a state religion. I'm just disgusted that in 2008, I can't get a decent drink in the state of Utah.
My best advice? Pack a fifth in your luggage like I did. I packed a bottle of Tanqueray gin, and, while tonic seems scarce in Utah (I should have packed that too), I made do with some Sierra Mist or some such nonsense. At least in my hotel room the drinks were more than an ounce, although I probably broke some other Utah liquor law by admitting this.
It sure feels nice to sit here in Oregon, land of the free and home of the craft distilling movement, drinking a cold Bridgeport Blue Heron Pale Ale and putting the last week behind me. Its good to be home.