In Utah, ‘Zion curtain’ bill debate flares

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — One of Utah’s most notable liquor laws is again sparking friction in the state
renewed effort to take down restaurant walls that shield diners’ eyes
from the shaking and stirring of drinks comes from one of the state’s
Republican lawmakers.
"It’s unkind, it’s ineffective and it’s costly," bill sponsor Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City,
told a committee Tuesday.
measure squeaked out of the committee meeting Tuesday by an 8-7 vote
after testimony from about a dozen voices, some intensifying to a near
yell and others continuing to speak after lawmakers silenced their
microphones. It now goes to the full House for consideration.
measure surfaces as Mormon church leaders this year ask legislators to
leave alone the state’s liquor code. And other lawmakers have said in
recent weeks that standing laws are sufficient.
Rep. Doug Sagers, R-Tooele, agreed. "To me this seems like a solution looking for a problem,"
he said.
A similar bill died late last year after critics said the rule likely limits drunken driving and underage
in favor of Powell’s proposal say the state invites visitors to its ski
slopes and vast canyons, only to make them feel alien by skirting out
of sight to pour their drinks.
And current law mandates that only
some restaurants need to put up the so-called Zion curtains, so some say
the patchwork rule is unfair.
But others contend that the 2010
rule, which went up in a compromise between lawmakers, does important
work by keeping restaurants from feeling like bars, and preventing
children and teens from eyeing alcoholic drinks.
The current rule
warns children that liquor deserves different treatment than soda and
juices, said Laura Bunker of United Families International.
"It shields them from the glamour of bartending," she said.
Lindsay, a professor of public health at Brigham Young University, said
tearing down the walls could convince young adults that drinking is the
"Anybody who says that the way we sell our products is not
part of the equation is an idiot, or they’re working for the industry,"
he said.
As legislators reconvened at the Capitol in January, the
Mormon church on its website defended the state’s current liquor laws in
a multimedia bulletin that include a 10-minute video.
majority of Utah residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, which teaches members to abstain from alcohol.
brings the bill after visiting restaurants and other businesses in his
district, which include high-end ski resorts along the Wasatch
Mountains. He points to state data showing that 9 percent of alcohol
consumption occurs in restaurants as opposed to bars, homes or elsewhere
as evidence that the eateries have little effect on drinking rates.
what," he told the committee in a heated moment. "There are many people
in this world and many people in Utah that when they eat, it is
customary for them drink alcohol."
Hans Fuegi of Park City’s Grub
Steak Restaurant counseled lawmakers Tuesday that customers already use
bars and restaurants for different purposes.
"It’s very clear," he said. "Nobody goes to a restaurant to binge drink."
existing barriers may conceal theft and often make diners question
whether they’re getting quality drinks, said restaurant owner Joel La
The barriers strike Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, as bizarre
but necessary. "I look at the Zion curtain through adult eyes," he said,
and "it’s the dumbest thing in the world." But they’re worth it to
prevent liquor from alluring youngsters, he said.
Heather Deuel, of Ogden, told lawmakers the rule makes little sense.
said she doesn’t drink but she thinks teens would more likely take up
alcohol due to movies, TV, and peer pressure rather than restaurant
Powell’s proposal would require restaurants choosing to
take down partitions to post a sign out front and on menus, indicating
they pour liquor in public view. It would also bar minors in restaurants
from coming a certain distance within bar seating.
Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, praised those provisions as a good tool for parents concerned about
underage drinking.
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