By Rosemary Pollock
Liquor Advertising in Utah 'Self-Censoring' Despite Court Ruling
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- In an effort to subjugate the First Amendment,
advertisers and bar owners have developed their own system of
self-censorship to get around Utah's Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt is a Mormon who has stocked the Commission with four
other Mormons and one social drinker. In a recent reversal by 3rd District
Judge Leslie Lewis, a four year old decision was overturned that found The
Paper Moon, a private club that caters to the gay and lesbian community in
Utah, not-guilty of an illegal solicitation of membership and an inducement
to overconsume in violation of Utah Code.
Despite that fact that no alcohol was mentioned in the ad of "party til you
drop" and "admire her bust", Utah's liquor commission fined Paper Moon
$2,700 and ordered a three-day suspension of alcohol sales. "ABC has so much
power they don't have to be rational, they don't have to be fair," said
plaintiff attorney Brian Barnard. "They go off the deep end. Licensees are
absolutely terrified and won't buck them."
Todd Dayley, publisher of The Pillar, which ran the offending Paper Moon
advertisement, now faxes questionable ads to ABC before printing. "They fax
it back with a stamp and a signature," Dayley said.
In one instance, Dayley pulled an and that offended an ABC compliance
officer because it showed a man pinching the nipple of another man. "We ran
a picture of a Christmas tree instead," he explained. "It's like censorship,
but we do it more to protect our clients because we don't want them to close
Meanwhile, as ABC is quibbling with corner taverns and dance clubs over
their advertising, a flood of more provocative ads is pouring in from
national newspapers and magazines. Entertainment Weekly and Time magazine
drinking ads are now challenging Utah's law that does not allow an ad
produced in Utah to show a "drinking scene." Highway billboards are also
banned by ABC because the commission believes such advertising is "public
solicitation...calculated to increase membership."
Greta Belanger deJong, editor and publisher of Catalyst, replaced an
advertisement in their June issue that touted Native Wines of Mount Pleasant
because an ABC employee said it may be illegal. "People are self-policing
themselves like mad," she said. "But the laws are so fuzzy. If the ABC has
to say to themselves that it may be illegal, it means even they can't figure
Despite all the complaining, John Saltas, publisher of the 60,000
circulation Salt Lake City Weekly said, "Utah is not a major market for
liquor sales. "It will have an impact. I'm sure there will be some liquor
advertisements. But it's not going to be New Orleans," he said. Assistant
Attorney General Thom Roberts, who is defending the state law, was still
discussing the ruling with the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage
Commission on Wednesday and did not have an immediate comment. Utah's
alcohol commission will meet Friday and the ruling probably will be reviewed.
An immediate impact will likely show up in Utah newspapers and magazines. A
year ago, the ABC threatened sanctions against Brown-Forman Corp. when the
company placed an ad for Canadian Mist whisky in The Salt Lake Tribune.
"Liquor is not an issue for us at all," said Tribune publisher Dominic Welch.
"The First Amendment is an issue. It's the greatest issue for me."
All-Powerful Panel Claims Alcohol as Its Fiefdom
Salt Lake Tribune 29Jul01 T4
By Greg Burton: Salt Lake Tribune
Critics react to ruling on liquor ad ban
Ogden UT Standard-Examiner (AP) 26Jul01 T4
Publisher doubts much will change
Court Slams Liquor-Ad Ban; Appellate judges say Utah's distinguishing between types of alcohol is 'irrational'
Salt Lake Tribune 25Jul01 T4
By Jacob Santini: Salt Lake Tribune
No Rush to Uncork Liquor Ads
Salt Lake Tribune 26Jul01 T4
By Greg Burton: Salt Lake Tribune