Origin and Purpose
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services has been in existence since 1935. In that year, the Utah State Legislature created the department by statute and charged it with the responsibility of conducting, licensing and regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages in a manner and at prices which reasonably satisfy the public demand and protect the public interest, including the rights of citizens who do not wish to be involved with alcoholic beverages. The legislature also mandated that the department be operated as a public business using sound management principles and practices.
Two years earlier, the ratification of the Twenty First Amendment not only ended national prohibition, but it also gave individual states the right to choose their own system of controlling and distributing alcoholic beverages. The Utah legislature at that time believed that the state, rather than private enterprise, should control sales.
The purpose of control is to make liquor available to those adults who choose to drink responsibly - but not to promote the sale of liquor. By keeping liquor out of the private marketplace, no economic incentives are created to maximize sales, open more liquor stores or sell to underage persons. Instead, all policy incentives to promote moderation and to enforce existing liquor laws is enhanced.
Utah's system of controlling the sale of alcoholic beverages is not as unique as most people believe. There are eighteen states and one county in Maryland which control the sale of alcoholic beverages at either the wholesale or retail level. These jurisdictions account for nearly 1/3 of the nation's population. These states share a common purpose - to promote moderation in the consumption of alcoholic beverages and to discourage excess and abuse.
The Department operates a statewide network of state stores and package agencies that sell all alcoholic beverages, except beer containing less than 4% alcohol by volume (which is sold in grocery and convenience stores).
By state statute, the total number of stores is tied to the state population, one store permitted for every 48,000 citizens.
The department also administers the liquor laws, alcohol education, and regulates the sale, service, storage, manufacture, distribution, and consumption of alcoholic products.