Page last updated at 03:51 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 04:51 UK

Utah lifts 'weird' drinking curbs

A bar tender in Salt Lake City, 18 March 2009
It is hoped the state will acquire a more friendly image

Utah has eased its strict controls on public drinking by announcing the end of restrictions under which bars had to function like private clubs.

From 1 July, anyone wanting a strong drink in the largely Mormon state will no longer have to fill in a form and pay a fee in order to enter a bar.

It is hoped the move will attract more visitors to Utah, which has a tourist industry worth an annual $6bn (£4.2bn).

Some bar customers said they welcomed the end to Utah's "weird drinking law".

Under the new law, restaurants will be able to take down partitions separating bartenders from diners, meaning bartenders will soon be able to serve drinks directly over bar counters.

'Awesome step'

The changes to the liquor laws were signed off by Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.

"We made a little bit of history today," he said after signing the bill in The New Yorker, an upscale bar in central Salt Lake City, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

In an article on the reform earlier this month, the New York Times noted that, under the old law, a membership card for a bar typically cost between $10 and $15.

"One of our economic pillars is travel and tourism," Mr Huntsman told the newspaper on that occasion.

"And if that's going to be hampered by these jaded and old-fashioned views, then that's going to impact the cash register and therefore our ability to fund the things that most citizens care deeply about, like our schools."

The Salt Lake Tribune asked customers for their reaction on Monday in a Salt Lake City bar called Murphy's.

"I think it's an awesome step in the right direction," Chris Holt told the newspaper.

"It's not going to be so much about Utah and its weird drinking law," said Amy Randall.

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