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Government’s role involving alcohol shouldn’t promote religious views

09/07/2013 2:53 PM

09/07/2013 2:54 PM

The latest news from Utah, the liquor board dropped a proposal requiring restaurant servers to insist that anyone ordering a drink also order a plate of food.

The only problem: this “less-than-free” state requires anyone drinking in a restaurant to order food anyway.

This is the state that makes Kansas seem like Gomorrah — all drinks must be poured behind a “Zion Curtain” lest women are shocked, shocked, I tell you, by the sight of people drinking Demon Rum. Or at least I’m pretty sure that’s what these politicians had in mind.

Actually, these zealots hate private enterprise so much that they would rather harm the restaurant industry than allow others to consume alcohol legally without shame.

What’s next: we drinkers have to wear big Scarlet “A”s (that’s “A” as in alcohol)?

It’s always bizarre to me how so-called conservatives demand that the government stay out of people’s business, unless they themselves are running the government.

And then they’ll invite the government to sit at your table or on the side of your bed. Power invites the abuse of power, no matter whose party we’re talking about.

Alcohol, like sex or gambling, invites special behaviors from zealous legislatures. Witness the justifications for continued government control of alcohol sales in states such as Pennsylvania — unfettered access to alcohol will result in increased alcohol consumption.

Then those same governmental agencies advertise and promote the alcohol they’ve been charged to sell. Smell like teen spirit or sound like hypocrisy?

As we have seen with the on-going battle over wine sales in Kansas grocery stores, these matters rarely break cleanly across party lines. The constituencies fighting against grocery store wine sales include small business owners.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic representatives are keen to protect the unionized retail workers who man the state’s liquor stores.

None of this is to imply that the government shouldn’t play a role in alcohol. In fact, alcohol is a sort of drug that ought to be controlled, if not limited in certain ways — such as the ban on underage drinking.

As in much of social life, government has a role to play. It needs to act deftly, fairly and without promoting a particular religious view. And with wine at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it’s hard to fathom why some religious orders have decided that wine drinkers should be constrained.

Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of Master Sommelier and Master of Wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section.

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