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Utah restaurants face stricter limits on liquor service

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Restaurants in Utah are mounting a last-ditch effort to prevent their state from becoming the first in the nation to limit how much alcohol people can drink and still legally drive to roughly one cocktail or glass of wine.

A measure dropping the blood alcohol concentration threshold to .05%, from the unofficial national standard of .08%, has already been approved by the state legislature. Restaurants are asking Gov. Gary Herbert to veto the measure, citing potential damage to tourism and the industry’s sales.

Experts say the average person’s BAC could hit .05% after having fewer than two drinks. A person who consumed a second glass of wine and then drove could be arrested for driving under the influence.

Proponents say the measure would save lives by keeping drivers with impaired reflexes and judgment from taking the wheel.

The same argument was used to lower the legal BAC in most states from .1 to .08.

The Utah Restaurant Association and the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association have met with Herbert to air their concerns, according to Deseret News, a local news medium.

Liquor regulations are complicated and more stringent in Utah than they are in most states because of the region’s large Mormon population. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ Church of Latter-day Saints are forbidden by their faith from drinking alcohol.

The local hospitality industry has weighed against some of the limitations, such as requiring bartenders to work behind a curtain so as not to glamorize drinking, because of the negative impact on tourism.

Herbert has until March 29 to veto the bill. He told local media that his office is studying the matter and that he has not yet decided if he’ll sign the measure or send it back to the legislature.

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