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Tribal Council seeking tribal member comments on Liquor Code revisions

Photo Credit: Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

Tribal members may have noticed an uptick in the number of tribal codes being updated by Tribal Council. Beginning in 2017, Tribal Council started establishing priorities for codes that needed to be revised.  Because the Liquor Code was last revised in 1988, there were a number of provisions that needed to be updated or modified, so Tribal Council identified the Liquor Code for revision in 2019.  After a recent Legislative Session with the Liquor Code drafting committee, Tribal Council approved distributing the revised Code for comment.  Tribal members will soon be seeing requests for comment on the other codes slated for the 2019 Legislative Session, which include the Election Code, Criminal Procedure Code, and Protective Custody Code.  The comment period gives the membership a chance to review and give input on a proposed code before Tribal Council approves and implements it.

The Tribe needed to revise its Liquor Code to make it more current and because a tribe must have a Liquor Code if alcohol is going to be sold on a reservation.  Federal law prohibits selling, serving, manufacturing, etc., alcohol on a Reservation unless the activity complies with both tribal and state liquor laws.  The Liquor Code is how the Tribe regulates the sale, possession, and drinking of alcohol.  The Liquor Code requires a person or establishment to have a license before they can sell alcohol.  This applies to liquor stores, restaurants, bars, fairgrounds, event centers, and gaming taverns, for example.  There are currently three establishments that have tribal liquor licenses: Sky Ute Casino Resort, Thriftway, and the Sky Ute Fairgrounds. The Liquor Code also applies to people who are drinking, buying, or possessing alcohol on trust land. For example, the Liquor Code establishes a minimum drinking age, prohibits open container, prohibits people from buying alcohol for a minor, and prohibits a person from buying alcohol from an unlicensed vendor.  The Liquor Code establishes who can sell alcohol, and how, when, and where they can do it and to whom they can sell it.  For example, the Code establishes legal selling hours.  It also prohibits a licensee from selling alcohol to a minor or a visibly intoxicated person.

The major differences between the existing Liquor Code and the revised Liquor Code include changing the Tribal Licensing Authority from Tribal Council to the Department of Justice & Regulatory; expanding and updating the license types; enforcing code violations in the civil system instead of through the criminal system; revising the dates and hours of sale; removing provisions addressing 3.2 percent beer; and allowing a restaurant patron to bring home an unfinished bottle of wine that he or she purchased at the restaurant, as long as the restaurant reseals the bottle for the patron before the patron leaves the premises.

For information about the reason for these changes, and a summary of the Code, Tribal Members can review the Notice of Draft Revised Liquor Code and Request for Comments, which is also published in this edition of The Southern Ute Drum.  Tribal members can obtain a copy of the proposed revised Liquor Code at:  or from the Legal Department.

Please provide any comments on the draft code by September 16, 2019.  After the comment period, Tribal Council will consider the comments, make necessary revisions, and finalize the code.

Please submit your comments to the Committee by one of the following methods:

  • E-mail:
  • Mail: Liquor Code Committee, c/o Legal Department, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, P.O. Box 737, Ignacio, Colorado, 81137.
  • Hand delivery: Legal Department, Leonard C. Burch Tribal Administration Building, Ignacio, Colorado, 81137
  • Phone: 970-563-4705; select the first option to comment on the Liquor Code.
  • Tribal Member Portal:

For more information contact:  Lorelyn Hall or Jamie Rivera in the Tribe’s Legal Department at 970-563-2311 or 563-2141 or by e-mail at or

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