Zion Curtain divides Utah House and Senate
Liquor • House seems to perceive sentiment for tearing down walls; Senate, not so much.
Published: January 27, 2014 08:27PM
Updated: January 28, 2014 09:23AM
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Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune After waiting for nearly two years, MacCool's Public House in Ogden has received a bar license, enabling the pub-style family restaurant to tear down its Zion Curtain and allow bartender Samantha Grotta to hand patrons a beer over the bar, Wednesday, September 26 2012 in Ogden. Under Utah law, bartenders, beer taps and open bottles of liquor must be hidden from public view in restaurants.

The statement by the LDS Church last week opposing changes to Utah’s liquor laws may not have been the last call for alcohol bills this year, after all.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart said Monday that she would still like to see the state get rid of the so-called Zion Curtain or Zion Wall, a 7-foot-2-inch barrier restaurants must have so children can’t see alcoholic beverages being mixed or poured.

Lockhart said the goals of the state’s liquor laws are to reduce underage drinking, overconsumption and drunken driving.

“Then let’s do those things that get us toward those goals, and let’s let go of those things that don’t, and that we don’t have any data to support. I believe that the Zion Curtain is one of those,” she said.

Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, is again sponsoring legislation that would tear down the wall. It passed the House last year and died in the Senate.

It may meet a similar fate this year, according to Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, who said he hasn’t seen any change among his Senate colleagues on liquor issues.

Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said he would like to see how the recent changes in the law are working.

“We’ve done some pretty sweeping changes over the years,” he said. “Sometimes you keep moving the ball and I think sometimes you need to see what you’ve got and see if there’s a problem, how it’s functioning.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took the unusual step last week of issuing a public policy statement, arguing that Utah’s laws are saving lives and strongly opposing any changes. D. Todd Christofferson, the apostle featured in a video accompanying the church’s statement, offered the opening prayer in the Senate on Monday.

Lockhart, who, like an overwhelming majority of the Legislature, is Mormon, said she doesn’t mind being in conflict with the church’s position.

“I am comfortable having my own position on all kinds of issues,” she said.