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Bill: A way around 'Zion Curtain' in eateries serving liquor

Published February 20, 2014 11:08 am

Compromise • Lawmaker seeks to allow choice to perhaps end unpopular requirement.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A bill in the Legislature would give restaurants that serve alcohol a choice of either having a "Zion Curtain" or what could be called a "Zion Warning."

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, has been pushing HB285 to get rid of the "Zion Curtain," a 7-foot-2-inch barrier restaurants must have so children can't see alcoholic beverages being mixed or poured.

He unveiled a compromise Thursday that he says gives that bill a better chance to pass: give restaurants a choice of the Zion Curtain, or allow them to post a notice on all entrances and menus saying, "Notice: This establishment dispenses and serves alcoholic products in public view."

Powell says that change would mean "restaurants and their customers will regulate themselves using principles of free-market choice."

He explained, "Many Utah restaurants may choose to keep the wall in place and not post the required notice, based on the preferences of their customers. Other restaurants will post the notice to avoid the restrictions of the dispensing wall, based again on customer preference."

Powell's bill originally sought to remove a requirement for restaurant patrons to demonstrate an intent to dine before they could be served alcohol — after recent controversy about undercover state agents fining restaurants that didn't enforce that provision.

Powell has carved that out of his bill now.

"I have removed the intent-to-dine issue from the bill so that the focus can be on the most onerous aspect of restaurant liquor regulation, the separate dispensing wall," he said.

Complicating any change to Utah's liquor laws is that just before the start of the legislative session, the LDS Church released a statement and video featuring apostle D. Todd Christofferson defending Utah's liquor laws, including the Zion Curtain. Members of Utah's Legislature are overwhelmingly Mormon, including Powell.

"We've got a reasonable system and it seems to be working. And I believe the efforts to chip away at this that have gone on for years and years are counterproductive," Christofferson said.