Tuesday, 7 March 2017
by Erin McAllister, Paralegal
Utah has some of the most restrictive alcohol laws in the United States. Bar licenses are scarce and are based on the state’s population. Liquor in bottles smaller than 200 milliliters is prohibited. State law limits patrons to no more than 2.5 ounces of liquor at a time. Bars close 1 hour early and heavy beer can’t be sold in bars or restaurants without a special license. The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (UDABC) has regulated the sale of alcoholic beverages since 1935, two years after the end of Prohibition. Utah is one of 18 control states, meaning the state has a monopoly over the wholesaling and/or retailing of some or all categories of alcoholic beverages.
Zion curtains are partitions unique to Utah restaurants that separate restaurant bartenders preparing alcoholic drinks from the customers who order them. These partitions are often made of frosted glass since they are required to be "solid, translucent, permanent". They were mandated in hopes of combating excessive drinking by keeping alcohol out of sight of restaurant patrons who choose not to consume alcohol. The new changes in the current bill would require all restaurants serving alcohol to either have a Zion curtain or a Zion Moat which is a 15-foot buffer around the bar where children under 21 would be prohibited. Establishments grandfathered in would also be required to choose between the curtain or the moat. For some establishments, this could put them out of business.
Utah was founded by Mormon (LDS Church) pioneers in 1847 and until recently, the majority of Utahns were LDS. In recent years, legislation to remove the Zion Curtain repeatedly failed after the LDS Church had opposed any changes in liquor laws, saying current laws have worked well. Legislators proposing the new bill said they have talked numerous times to church leaders, and believe the LDS Church will support their bill.
Utah has the lowest underage-drinking rate in the country, fourth lowest drunk-driving rate, second lowest binge-drinking rate. Some argue this is because of our alcohol laws; however, some legislators believe with a push for better education, those statistics will remain low.
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