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Bill to let grocers sell beer with more alcohol gets third reading

Walmart asking customers to weigh in on wether they want to get rid of 3.2 beer, pictured Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, in favor of heavy beer as beer manufacturers consider phasing it out. (Steve Breinholt, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Senate Bill 132, which would let grocery and convenience stores sell beer with 4.8 percent alcohol by weight (6 percent by volume), will get a third reading.

Today’s vote was 21-8 in favor.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Jerry Stevenson (R-Layton), who calls it a business bill, says most brewers aren’t making 3.2 percent beer anymore, leaving mom and pop shops without a lot of brands to sell.

“A heavy part of their product is in their beer sales. And these are going away,” Stevenson said on the Senate floor today.

Senator Don Ipsen (R-St. George) agrees the current restrictions are bad for business, and he feels they have an unintended consequence.

“I’m concerned that instead of buying a six pack, you gotta buy a 12 pack or a 30 pack,” Ipsen said. “The six packs of these products have already been eliminated.”

But opponents worry there will be increases in DUI crashes, especially among young people, with higher alcohol content more easily available. They also argued that taking those beers off the State Liquor Store shelves will cut into the tax revenue used to fund the school lunch program.

Senator Lyle Hillyard (R-Logan), who voted against the bill, feels it’s a slippery slope.

“I think the next step will be to put wine in grocery stores,” Hillyard said. “They say, ‘Oh no! That’s not going to happen.’ Mark my words; it’s gonna happen.”

The third reading has not been scheduled yet.