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Zion Curtain

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

by Erin McAllister, Paralegal

A bill which includes the tearing down of the so-called "Zion Curtain" — the 7-foot-tall barrier to prevent restaurant patrons, especially children, from seeing alcoholic drinks being mixed — in Utah restaurants could be passed during this legislative session. Utah senators from Layton and Kaysville are working on the completion of an overhaul of Utah’s liquor policy. Their bill focuses on everything from how restaurants operate in terms of verification of age, how they display alcohol, how their servers and operators are trained, what happens in case of a violation, provisions designed to help reduce underage drinking and drunken driving and the infamous Zion Curtain.

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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Driving Directions from I-15:
• Take the Pleasant Grove exit 275 from I-15
• Turn North onto Pleasant Grove Blvd
• Turn left onto W. Grove Pkwy
• Quickly turn left into the Synergy/Spaulding Law parking lot.