Utah’s state legislature made some major changes to the state’s strict liquor laws this year.
First, they voted to take down the infamous “Zion Curtain” in restaurants – it’s a wall required between customers and the person pouring alcoholic drinks.
Then they voted to make their state the toughest in the nation on DUIs – a driver can now be arrested if his or her blood alcohol content is .05 percent.
To make matters worse for casual drinkers, Utah limits alcohol concentration to 3.2 percent in beer. And, it has the highest tax in the country on wine.
The tax is becoming so heavy, Mountain West Hard Cider, Utah’s first hard-cider maker, is moving some of its operation to Nevada.
”I think we’re pretty committed to moving our non-Utah consumed product into Nevada,” owner Jeff Carleton told KNPR's State of Nevada. Carleton said they had found a spot in Mesquite that fits their needs.
The problem is when a wine producer hits 20,000 gallons of production their taxes nearly double. And while hard cider is made with apple juice, it is still considered wine because wine is defined as fermented fruit juice.
“You would take an operation like ours, employing eight people contributing 100s of thousands of dollars to the Utah economy and we would immediately be losing money,” Carleton said.
Now, as Mountain West Hard Cider expands to other states, including Nevada, their production will move to more than 20,000 gallons.
That is why moving their non-Utah production here makes sense. Nevada has a small tax on their type of alcohol production and they'll now have to pay for distribution, but they won't have to pay the extra money for producing more.
Carleton said they tried to get the wine producers tax reduced during the last legislative session but the language was removed from the final bill.
Jeff Carleton, owner, Mountain West Hard Cider