State Liquor Laws
Liquor laws in Utah are pretty unique — here’s what you need to know.
Utah’s Liquor Laws
Throughout recent years, Utah has been making strides to modernize its liquor laws. While some may still have qualms with how modern these laws are, it wasn’t too long ago that you needed a “private club membership” to enter bars. Given the state’s past, the alcohol landscape of today is worlds different than it's traditionally been.
Some liquor laws in Utah are just like everywhere else. Only adults of legal age can order and consume beer, wine and hard liquor at bars, pubs and restaurants, and — you guessed it — that legal age is 21. It’s the unique aspects of Utah’s liquor laws that need a little explaining.
One of the biggest wrinkles in Utah liquor laws is the difference between a bar and a restaurant. That might not be a big deal elsewhere, but in Utah it makes all the difference. Beer, liquor and wine can still be ordered in a restaurant from 11:30 a.m. - 1 a.m., but since the establishment is licensed as a restaurant, those drinks need to be ordered with food. This is often a point of interest and/or dismay for tourists, but it isn’t as much of a hassle as you’d think — a plate of fries for the table will do just fine (as will the excuse to order fries).
Taverns, Breweries and Bars
Taverns, breweries and bars are allowed to sell alcohol during the same hours as restaurants (11:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.), but do not require patrons to order food. Despite this fact, many excellent eateries actually choose to license themselves as a bar in order to open up business to those who just want a drink. A variety of other venues — taverns, lounges, nightclubs, cafes, bowling centers, golf courses and concert halls — often license themselves as bars as well.
While you’ll only find 5% alcohol by volume beer on tap, drinks of any percentage are available in bottles, and to-go beers of all percentages are also offered at some breweries in bottles and cans. No one under 21 is allowed in an establishment licensed as a bar in Utah, so families should prepare to look elsewhere for their eats. All adults should always be prepared to show ID when heading to a Utah bar. No matter how gray or non-existent your hairline is, you don’t stand a chance without ID.
New Utah liquor laws were passed on November 1, 2019. This time it was in favor of easier access to slightly higher percentage beer. Pushed by beer distributors and consumers, Utah updated the alcohol by volume percentage of beer served on draft and in grocery/convenience stores from 4% to 5%. This seemingly small change actually opened the door for a much wider variety of beers in local stores. High percentage beers still require a trip to the liquor store, but many big-brand favorites have since become available in their unaltered forms. In fact, Budweiser was so happy about the change that they brought the Clydesdales to town to give the 4% beer a public funeral procession.
If you’re waiting on the chance to pick up a bottle of wine with your groceries, you’ll have to keep waiting. Liquor and wine are still sold exclusively at state liquor stores. However, some of the finest wines in the world are actually sold at state-run stores in Salt Lake City, so this is a win for wine-lovers.
Other sellers may be located in hotels and resorts for customer convenience. Many hotels offer alcoholic beverages via room service.
Acceptable forms of ID include:
A valid passport,
A valid U.S. driver's license
A valid military identification card with a date of birth and a photo or
An official U.S. state-issued identification card.
We’ll say it again in case you didn’t believe us, you seriously need your ID ‘round these parts.
State liquor stores accept cash, checks and credit cards. All state liquor stores are closed on Sundays and holidays, and often close as early as 7 p.m. Plan your celebrations and libations accordingly.
Utah's Smoking Laws
Stick that in your pipe and (don’t) smoke it! As in most states, Utah's Indoor Clean Air Act prohibits smoking in areas where the general public has regular access.
Many Utah lodging facilities have smoking rooms available and the Salt Lake International Airport has designated smoking areas in front of their respective terminals. When in doubt about
whether to light up in an outdoor space at a bar, restaurant or venue, it’s best to ask the business about their policies.
While our neighbors to the east and west (Colorado and Nevada) have legalized marijuana for recreational use, the substance is only available for medical purposes in Utah. Even if you’re just passing through the Beehive State from one of these tokin’ territories to the other, it’s still illegal to possess marijuana here without a proper medical card. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find police patrolling near the borders in well-traveled areas. Maybe they’re just out enjoying the views, but it’s best not to take chances.