Utah’s ‘Zion curtain’ could be coming down

Posted at 4:52 PM, Feb 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-27 18:52:59-05

SALT LAKE CITY - The so-called 'Zion curtain' that blocks restaurant patrons from seeing alcoholic drinks being made could be coming down.

The 7-foot wall is designed to shield kids from seeing liquor being poured and alcoholic beverages being prepared, which could prevent underage drinking.

Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, says the walls don't work and that it's time for them to go. He thinks the walls are unfair to Utah restaurants.

"The primary reason is because we set up an unequal playing field for restaurants and businesses in the state," Wilcox said.

And House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, says the rule is weird.

"Just to be straight up, I think it's weird. And I'm not a drinker, I grew up not here in Utah. I've always thought that is a little bit strange," Lockhart said.

Lockhart isn't alone. Most people outside people see the 'Zion curtain,' which became law in 2009, as strange.

The 7-foot requirement for walls is only for new restaurants being built. There are some spots, like Takashi's in Salt Lake City, who were grandfathered in, so their curtains are a little shorter.

Takashi's says people want and deserve to see what they're being served.

"With so many restaurants producing handcrafted cocktails with fruit, high quality spirits, I think the guests want to see what they're paying for. They want to know that they're getting poured quality spirits and that we're not using bottled juices to make their cocktails," said Tamara Gibo, managing member at Takashi's.

But Sen. John Valentine, R-Utah County, says that underage drinking is a serious problem.

"It's problematic for me because we always are concerned about underage drinking and over-consumption," Valentine said. "The reason that we put separate preparation areas for restaurants is we always have thought restaurants were going to be different from bars. We did not expect restaurants to turn into bars."

House Bill 228, which would bring down the 'Zion curtain,' passed through a committee with a favorable recommendation.