The Utah House approved tearing down the wall erected in Utah restaurants to keep the public from seeing alcoholic beverages from being prepared — referred to as the Zion Curtain — sending the bill to the Senate where it faces a much less certain future.
Under Utah law passed four years ago, restaurants are required to have a seven-foot two-inch high barrier to keep customers from seeing servers mixing or pouring cocktails, wine or beer.
But Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, said as many as nine out of every 10 restaurants are not required to have the barrier because eateries existing before the 2009 law passed were exempt.
Wilcox said he has seen instances where one restaurant had to build a wall, while a restaurant on the same street did not.
“The part of me that requires us to treat businesses fairly started to buzz,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox said the peculiar Zion Wall or Zion Curtain as it is sometimes called also makes headlines in national publications that are counterproductive to Utah’s effort to attract tourists and business development.
Without any debate, the House passed 1 Sub HB228 by a vote of 63-11, sending the measure to the Senate where it could receive a skeptical reception.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, has said he and other senators are concerned that taking down the wall blurs the line between restaurants and bars and “we are crossing that line we should not be crossing.”
“The concern I still have is alcohol is a drug. You have to recognize it has social costs and you have to recognize we can’t change the culture in our restaurants to make them bars,” Valentine said.
If the concern is about treating restaurants equally, Valentine said, one way to do that is to remove the grandfather provision and make all of the restaurants build a wall shielding the drink preparation area.
Valentine acknowledged he isn’t speaking for all the senators, and there are some who want to get rid of the wall, but he said it’s much more evenly divided than in the House.
He said he anticipates there will be some negotiations in the closing days of the session to see if the differences can be resolved.