Utah town appears headed toward keeping booze prohibition

Published on November 09, 2017 at 11:42AM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — One of Utah’s last “dry” communities appeared Wednesday on track to maintain its eight-decade prohibition on alcohol sales after voters rejected a measure to allow sales that proponents said would boost tourism and opponents said would threaten the small city’s way of life.

Following Tuesday’s vote in Blanding, the count of ballots was 573 in favor of keeping the ban and 299 for overturning it, according to unofficial results as of Wednesday afternoon.

Mayor-elect Joe Lyman said officials did not have details about how many more ballots still had to be counted in the city of about 3,500 but expected it was a small number and wouldn’t change the outcome.

The city in Utah’s southeastern corner has seen an influx of tourists in recent years, especially with the naming of the new Bears Ears National Monument nearby. Some restaurant and hotel owners say that even though most locals are Mormon and avoid alcohol, Blanding needs to accommodate drinkers.

“I just feel bad for those who want a bottle of wine or a glass of wine with your meal,” said Sharon Guymon, a restaurant owner who pushed to allow beer and wine sales after years of customer complaints. “I don’t think a glass would hurt anybody.”

Others argued prohibition is key to the city’s character and worried that allowing alcohol could lead to public drunkenness and other problems.

Utah has only about half a dozen dry communities, according to state alcohol regulators. Blanding’s vote to reconsider its ban on beer and wine follows similar debates in other dry communities across the country in recent years.

Blanding has been dry since the 1930s, according to city officials. Talk of repealing the prohibition has surfaced periodically but 2017 was the first time the issue made it onto the ballot.