More Then Zion: Salt Lake Seeks to Revamp its Image

Staff Writer
Will a change in liquor laws allow Salt Lake City to shake its uptight image and become a premier travel location?
Michelle Sandstrom

Salt Lake City is probably known best for the great skiing and as the home of the Mormon church but, is trying to change it’s reputation.

Salt Lake City is probably known best for the great skiing and as the home of the Mormon church. The later of which has a huge influence in the city and states political sphere; and has had significant impact on the laws governing alcohol throughout Utah. Compared to other states Utah’s liquor laws have historically been very restrictive. Despite many changes relaxing the rules, the city still has a very straight laced image in regards to alcohol, which is a big negative for the tourism and real-estate industry. Yet, the city is in a period of transition as it seeks to redefine itself as a desirable place for transplants to relocate; and as a destination for travelers other then just those who love to ski. The city is working, certainly amid some controversy from the Mormon church, to rebrand itself.

As with every state, Utah was ‘dry’ under prohibition. From 1920 to 1933 no alcohol could be produced, purchased, or sold in restaurants; nor were bars allowed at all. However, even after the ratification of the 21st amendment and prohibition was repealed, liquor laws in Utah remained incredibly conservative compared to other states. This was mainly due to the influence of the Mormon church, which does not allow it’s members to drink.

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Unfortunately, the restrictive alcohol laws have had a negative cascading effect on the tourism industry, and the real-estate market. People don’t necessarily want to move or travel to a place that they view as having unreasonably restrictive liquor laws, that don’t line up with their personal belief system. More specifically, industries like restaurants, bars, and alcohol producers are completely stymied by the laws, which has a ricochet effect on tourism. Tourists visiting Salt Lake expect high end restaurants to be able to serve alcohol in the same way they experience in their home state. Bars and a night life are also a must for encouraging not only lone travelers but also to convince large conventions and companies to host their events in the city.