ST. GEORGE — Following the decision by the Utah Legislature to pass a measure that allows stores in Utah to sell higher strength beer effective Nov. 1, the St. George Costco has once again started selling beer to Southern Utah residents for the first time in years.
On Monday, posts circulating on social media announced that the Costco on 835 N. 3050 East in St. George was featuring a selection of beers with 4% alcohol by weight (5% by volume). The post included a photo showing various cases of beer stacked on pallets, with boxes of fruit and the Kirkland bakery in the background.
A Costco representative told St. George News the Southern Utah location used to sell beer but stopped several years back due to a limited demand.
“The main reason why we discontinued selling beer years ago was because of the lack of sales, and I think that was because people weren’t interested in that lower percentage,” she said. “That was a pretty big factor in why we decided to bring it back is probably because the demand has changed in our area and with that percentage change.”
In March of this year, in response to major brewers phasing out 3.2 beer due to an ever-shrinking market, the Utah Legislature voted to drop 3.2% beer and allow for the sale of the higher percentage beer. The only state maintaining the 3.2 limit as of November will be Minnesota.
The new law will allow for a larger selection of beer to be sold in convenience stores, grocery stores and membership-only warehouse clubs like Costco. However, while Costco is widely known for their expansive collection of liquors, beers and wines, Southern Utah will still be excluded from enjoying the Kirkland-brand booze.
Utah is one of 17 states where the government has a monopoly over liquor sales, meaning that the Legislature decides who is able to sell certain products, including beer. In the state, wine and hard liquors can only be found at state-run liquor stores.
In addition to allowing higher content beers on grocery store shelves, Utah legislators also added a 30 cent tax increase on every 31-gallon beer barrel, hiking the price from $12.80 to $13.10.
The added tax is expected to generate $350,000 annually, which will go to the Alcoholic Beverage Enforcement and Treatment Restricted Account starting July 1, 2020, according to the Utah State Tax Commission.
Dave Moody, one of the owners of Silver Reef Brewing Co. in St. George, previously told St. George News that Utah already has high taxes on alcohol, adding that he doesn’t believe the increase will be much of an issue. Any increased cost passed on to the consumer would likely be just over a single cent, Moody said.
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