Utah’s so-called “Zion Curtain” will be left standing, it seems.
Despite a strong vote by House members to get rid of the walled-off area intended to prevent the public from seeing where drinks are mixed or poured in restaurants, senators bottled up the bill and on Tuesday stripped the provision from the bill.
“I’m really concerned about the culture of alcohol and I’m concerned about changing the atmosphere of restaurants into bars,” said Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem.
Valentine swapped out the Zion Curtain provision in HB228 and inserted language of two of his own liquor bills — with the support of the House sponsor, Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden.
Wilcox said he believes separate preparation area is bad policy, but the fact was that the Senate was not going to go along with getting rid of it.
“I know the House felt very strongly,” said House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, who had called the wall requirement “weird.” The bill passed the House 63-11.
“For me, personally, it’s a disappointment,” she said. “I definitely think it will come back. It will return to the Legislature, for sure.”
Valentine’s bills — now part of HB228 — allow restaurant chains to get a single liquor license, instead of getting a new license for each eatery. That is expected to free up a number of restaurant licenses, which are in short demand and, restaurateurs have complained, has stymied expansion.
It also imposes a mandatory fine of $1,500 for retailers that serve alcohol to minors, increasing with each violation and allows so-called “flights,” which are tastings of a liquor, wine or beer.
The Zion Curtain or Zion Wall, as it is popularly referred to, must be an opaque, 7-foot-2 barrier that conceals the drink preparation area from dining patrons, the theory being that seeing drinks poured or prepared can be enticing to children.
The amended version of HB228 was given preliminary approval by a vote of 24-2 on Tuesday, moving it on to a final vote.