Salt Lake City: Can I Get A Drink Around Here or What?

I saw a shot glass this afternoon that made me laugh.

I was on my way out of the airport when it caught my eye, and I smiled and felt bad at the same time.

Eat, drink, and be merry – tomorrow you may be in Utah.

It’s a shame, but the strict rules on alcohol in the state of Utah have long been a source of stress for the tourism departments – they have an awfully steep hill to climb when it comes to convincing people that there is some drinking to be done in the Beehive State.

A few traditional laws making that mountainside a slippery slope: Happy hours and drink specials are forbidden, you cannot drink at a restaurant unless you order food (and in new restaurants the drink cannot be made within sight of the customer… seriously), draft beers cannot be any stronger than 3.2% alcohol by weight, stiff drinks and doubles are illegal.

Although the ban on happy hour stings, the reality of it is this: It’s really not a problem if you want to have a few drinks here – the rules truly are more of a burden to locals and business owners than they are to tourists (residents caught a break when they got rid of the “membership” rule at bars a few years ago).

Something I learned tonight: Despite all the whacky laws put forth by the government, you can still have a good time in Utah. I had a beer and partook in a bottle of wine. No one slapped my wrist. Looking around the room, almost every table had some sort of alcoholic beverage placed upon it. The rules may not want to indulge or inspire a drinking culture, but they certainly do not stop anyone from enjoying themselves.

Look, this isn’t Vegas or New Orleans – people talk about these laws as if they want to come here to get hammered and rely on cliched phrases to justify their actions. A visit to Salt Lake is all about getting outdoors and hitting the slopes, which I will do for the next four days (starting with Snowbird tomorrow).

And you know what? At the end of the day when my leg muscles have had enough, I’m going to pour myself a stiff one and soak in the hot tub, maybe start to smile from the altitude/booze combo.

I guarantee I will not be the only one.

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