The Utah House of Representatives voted 63-11 on Tuesday to take down the Zion Curtain - the opaque structure required by the legislature that stops restaurant patrons from watching the pouring of alcohol. There was no debate.
HB228, sponsored by Ryan Wilcox-R, Ogden, makes building the seven foot wall in new restaurants that blocks the view of workers and patrons alike no longer necessary. Required by law in 2009, the reasoning behind the curtain was to block children from seeing bartenders pour liquor based drinks and consequently stop them from abusing the substance at a young age.
Complaints about changes in construction planning for individual restaurants as well as chains, workers who were unable to keep track of customers, and customers who could not see if what was ordered was what was being poured helped prompt the action. Restaurants built before 2009 were grandfathered in, making enforcement inconsistent. National news stories about the Curtain is also said to hurt tourism, according to Wilcox.
House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart-R, Provo did not grow up in Utah, and said she found the obstruction “strange” and “weird.” Lockhart does not consume alcohol.
The bill will now go before Utah’s Senate which has blocked changes in Utah’s heavy handed liquor policy in the past. Much of that is credited to former Senate President Michael Waddoups-R, Taylorsville, whose wife was injured in an accident by a drunk driver. Mrs. Waddoups often testified before the legislature, urging tight control. Waddoups retired at the end of last year and has been called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome starting sometime this summer.
Wilcox expects some opposition in the Senate. Senator John Valentine-R, Orem, who is sponsoring several alcohol related bills this session, believes removing the curtain will blur the line between bars and restaurants. He said, “We are crossing that line we should not be crossing.” He would like the legislature to consider removing the grandfather provision requiring the Curtain in all restaurants. According to Wilcox, only about 9 out of 10 have installed the obstruction.
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Source: Utah Legislature, KUTV News, Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune