Idaho Statesman, Nov 24, 2001 second story beer girl
By Patty Henetz
The Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITYIn this predominantly Mormon city, brewery owner Greg Schirf came up with a provocative name for his beerPolygamy Porterand ran a radio ad asking: "Why have just one?"
Schirf planned a racy billboard, too, with a scantily clad man surrounded by women, and the slogan: "Take some home for the wives."
The ad was dropped by the billboard company, and conservative reaction was swift and brutal.
The episode earlier this month illustrates the tension in Utah between the liquor industry and Mormon sensibilitiesa tension that has increased in the past few years with the approach of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Seventy percent of Utah's 2.1million people are members of the Mormon church, which shuns alcohol. And the state's liquor laws reflect that.
Utah law requires bars, called private clubs here, to sell individual annual memberships of at least $12 before a person can get a drink. Liquor stores are state-run and are not open Sunday.
Visitors often are able to buy drinks without joining private bars. At many ski resorts, for example, guests are automatically members of the resort's club.
But with the Olympics coming to town in February, a small but vocal minority of brewers and bar owners is hoping to make money on the tourist trade by easing the liquor laws.
Dead Goat Saloon owner Daniel Darger recruited five other bar owners in his war against what he called Utah's liquor-law lunacy. He told customers they could pay just $15 for a single membership card that will get them into six bars.
"It's like the Boston Tea Party," Darger said.
Utah law does not specifically address the legality of Darger's mult-club membership system, probably because no one has ever tried this particular artful dodge. Liquor regulators have expressed concern, but Darger, a lawyer, said: "If they want to take me to the wall, I'm ready to go."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not opposed to responsible drinking among non-Mormons but does not want laws that encourage over-consumption or underage drinking, said Dale Bills, a church spokesman.
Last month, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board abandoned a proposed ban on liquor ads with religious themes after a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union.
For more than a year, Schirfs Wasatch Brewery has been tweaking Mormons with his advertising. His billboards have touted beer as "Utah's Other Local Relgion" and urged customers to "Baptize Your Taste Buds." Radio ads poked fun at the Mormon church's proselytizing, with Elders "Rulon" and "Heber" declaring themselves on a "different kind of mission."
Billboard company Reagan Outdoor Advertising pulled the Polygamy Porter ad before it ran. Schirf said he thinks the company caved in to political pressure.
Many Utah residents have polygamist ancestors.
"There's not a state that remotely comes close to the control Mormons have in Utah," complained Schirf, a Roman Catholic from Wisconsin.
Reagan president Dewey Reagan said the billboard company did not want to be associated with polygamy, which was renounced by the Mormon church in 1890.
Republican state Sen. Peter Knudson, a Mormon teetotaler who was on a citizen advisory board on alcohol before his election the toe Legislature, said Utah's liquor laws "work pretty well," but are subject to change. "This issue will continue to be looked at. The Olympics will give us a good chance to get input from the broader world."