SALT LAKE CITY -- The "Zion Curtain" will not fall.
Under a new liquor bill unveiled on Tuesday, the 7-foot-2 walls that keep alcohol from view in restaurants will remain in place. Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, unveiled an "omnibus liquor bill" cobbled together from a number of bills he is running.
"We're going to grant 'master licenses,' but we're going to have offsets for public safety," Valentine said.
This latest version of HB 228 allows for the creation of a so-called "master license" for chain restaurants, freeing up liquor licenses for other restaurants. It would also allow "flights," being able to sample different beers or wines, Valentine said.
But Valentine broke with the House over the Zion Curtains, overriding a bill sponsored by Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, that would have gotten rid of them.
"We do not want to foster the culture of alcohol in this state, especially in our restaurants," Valentine told FOX 13. "Our restaurants are places that do not push alcohol as its major source of income."
Restauranteurs who spoke with FOX 13 were resigned to the Zion Curtains remaining. Alex Montanez, who owns Rovali's on Ogden's 25th Street, described them as an "inconvenience," but said they will adapt and make every effort to keep customers happy.
"It's kind of a cramped space, so it's difficult when there's two of us back there," he said. "When we're trying to work we actually have to do one at a time."
Valentine has been criticized over the Zion Curtains, but he defended them as "non-offensive" and a way to convey that restaurants, unlike bars, are "family establishments."
"We have restaurants. We have bars," he said on the Senate floor. "We do not want to foster a culture of alcohol in restaurants."
HB 288 passed the Senate on a 22-2 vote. It goes for final vote before the Senate on Wednesday.