H.B. 548 Alcohol Amendments

March 7, 2024

Being one of the 17 states that oversee the sale and distribution of alcohol, Utah applies a unique and highly involved approach to alcohol regulation. As part of this, the Legislature updates and alters alcohol-oriented laws as needed. This year’s H.B. 548 Alcohol Amendments encompasses a comprehensive set of revisions to Utah’s alcohol regulations, including expanding full-service restaurant and bar licenses, establishing hotel and resort portability, changes in markup rates, taxation adjustments, enforcement enhancements and other measures. These policies all work to promote responsible alcohol consumption, protect public safety and reflect Utahns’ values and preferences, all while considering the state’s expansion and needs.

A primary component of H.B. 548 is expanding the number of full-service restaurant and bar licenses to meet population growth and demographic changes. Specifically, full-service (FS) restaurant licenses will gradually increase from one per population of 4,467 to 3,167 over seven years. The total increase will be about 312 additional licenses, bringing the total number of FS restaurant licenses to 1,073 statewide by fiscal year 2031.

The number of bar licenses will increase from one per population of 10,200 to 7,246 graduated over seven years, with a total increase of about 136 additional licenses, bringing the bar license total to 469 statewide by fiscal year 2031. Even with this increase, Utah will continue to have the strictest quota in the nation for FS and bar licenses.

Taxes on alcoholic beverages will help fund programs and initiatives aimed at mitigating or treating the harmful consequences of alcohol use and misuse. H.B. 548 implements a markup increase of 0.5% on liquor, wine and flavored malt beverages, the revenue of which will finance addiction recovery programs. A $0.25/year increase on beer tax and heavy beer tax over the next several years will fund additional compliance and enforcement officers in the state, with three additional officers to be added to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for code compliance in retail outlets. For victims abused by those under the influence of alcohol, this bill adds provisions for defendants and counsel to receive copies of DUI and accident reports for possible civil litigation.

Finally, the bill allows hotel and resort patrons to carry purchased alcoholic beverages in unmarked/opaque cups to designated areas such as their rooms. A cash bar pilot program will also be initiated to track cash purchases, requiring patron information based on ID checks. 

Find additional provisions of the bill here or by watching the bill’s committee presentation here.