Utah restaurants that serve alcohol will say good riddance Tuesday to those mandated signs that read: “THIS PREMISE IS LICENSED AS A RESTAURANT NOT A BAR.”
The signs, business owners say, can be stashed next to private clubs and the 7-foot-high barriers — aka Zion Curtains — in Utah’s liquor control history book.
“It’s another one of those laughable things,” said Salt Lake City restaurant owner Scott Evans. Hopefully, “we’ll get made fun of less.”
But wait! Don’t throw the signs in the trash. Tanner Lenart is asking that restaurants send the signs to her. The Salt Lake City attorney has teamed with a Utah artist to create a liquor-inspired art installation.
“Anyone who donates their sign will get an invitation to our gallery opening this fall,” said Lenart, who specializes in Utah liquor laws.
When Utah did away with private clubs, “people burned their membership cards,” she said, and when the state got rid of the Zion Curtains, they “tore those down.”
A collage made from the restaurant signs is a good way to memorialize this particular piece of Utah’s liquor law history, she said. “It will speak for itself.”
Since May 2017, when the signs became mandatory as part of a massive liquor-reform law, they have been an annoyance for owners, confusing to diners and the butt of jokes on social media.
Restaurant owners “want to get rid of them as soon as they can,” said Melva Sine, the director of the Utah Restaurant Association.
After just one year, the Legislature decided to change the law and remove the requirement for restaurants — but not bars. The new law takes effect May 8.
Bars must post a sign — at least 8½ by 11 inches in size — that states the “premise is a bar and no one under the age of 21 is allowed inside,” said Terry Wood, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“Bar establishments can rip up the signs they currently have posted,” he said. Those signs, which are similar to the ones for restaurants, read: “BAR NOT A RESTAURANT.”
Wood said the old signs were confusing because many people assumed the bars didn’t serve food.
Lenart said she’d like to get as many of both signs as possible, “hopefully in the triple digits.”
Restaurant and bar owners can send them to Tanner Lenart, 257 E. 200 South, Suite #1100, Salt Lake City, UT 84111.
She expects most signs to be the simple black-and-white versions that restaurants and bars printed off the DABC website.
“But there are definitely some personalized ones that I think are pretty cool and that would make a good addition to the piece,” she said.
In November, the finished collage will be on display at Nox Contemporary, 440 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City.
Lennart said the gallery was booked several months in advance, but she thinks that November — just two months before the 2019 Legislature begins — is a good time to reflect on the state of Utah’s liquor laws.
“It’s a big deal for the signs to go up and then, a year later, come down,” she said.
She’d like to think it’s indicative of what could happen in the future.
“Just because we have crazy laws,” she said, “doesn’t mean they can’t go away.”