Debate over ‘Zion Curtain’ continues

SALT LAKE CITY — What goes on behind the bar at Flatbread Pizza in Sugarhouse is something none of the customers ordering drinks get to see.

“We just can’t do that, honestly. It’s kind of frustrating,” said Amanda Willard, the restaurant’s general manager.

When the location opened a year ago, the owners had to install a 7-foot by 2-inch barrier to shield patrons from the bartender mixing alcoholic drinks. The Zion curtain, as it’s called, is an eyesore to Willard.

“It deters people away from getting cocktails because they’re not able to see the bartender actually making the drinks,” Willard said. “I would be happy to take it down with a sledge hammer.”

But getting rid of it is not so simple. The partition has been a controversial topic for lawmakers, who last year killed a plan that would have brought the curtain down.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, has not given up on the idea. He’s revived the legislation this session, however, with a compromising clause.

“Restaurants who want to stay with having the wall can stay. Restaurants who want to take down the wall are going to post a notice on the door,” Powell said.

The notice would warn customers that the restaurant dispenses and serves alcoholic products in public view.

Powell pitched the idea to the House Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee on Tuesday.

“I would be willing to live with this restriction if I could see logically how it actually served the goals of stopping binge drinking,” Powell said. “This allows some choice among our restaurants in Utah.”

But it also goes against state policy and views, according to critics, who attended the meeting.

“One goal of Utah alcohol policy is to, ‘Not promote or encourage the sale or consumption of alcohol.’ HB285 will not serve this goal and will in fact undermine it,” said Stan Rasmussen of the Sutherland Institute.

Prior to this legislative session, the LDS church released a statement calling on lawmakers to preserve Utah’s liquor laws, including the Zion Curtain.

“Laws and policies create an alcohol environment that supports or undermines parents. The separate alcohol preparation areas are a valuable part of an environment that discourages underage drinking in our state,” said Laura Bunker, President of United Families International.

For now, the debate about what should happen at the bar will continue at the capitol.

The committee passed it by a narrow 8-7 margin. It now heads to the House floor for debate.

12 comments

  • Jayde Gillespie

    How come places like Chili’s and Applebee’s don’t have to comply with this? (Not that I am in favor of the curtain) you can see their bar area from nearly anywhere in the restaurant, and they cater to families. And any table can order cocktails, so the kiddos still see the drinks. The real reason for the curtain must be so we can’t see that Utah forces them to water down our drinks!

  • Steven Waters

    The LDS church’s argument in favor of the Zion curtain is in direct opposition to their own articles of faith. Was it not Lucifers plan to compel God’s children to obey his commands? Did not God want his children to choose to follow him? Did he not also not state in Abraham 3:25

    25 And we will aprove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

    “This community needs vinegar and will require spirituous liquors for washing and for health, and it will be right and proper for the city to continue its sale as it has done and make a profit.”

    – Brigham Young
    August 11, 1865 addressing the City Council on the issue of liquor in Salt Lake City

    Why is it ok for some eating establishments to prepare and serve alcohol in the plain sight of all including children?

  • Lacie

    Seriously ridiculous. Only in Utah there would a law that is so asinine. Religion needs to stay out of and away from the law making.

  • Christina R.

    As if a kid is going to have a different experience if they can’t see the drinks being made…. mommy and/or daddy are still getting drunk in front of the kid at the restaurant. That’s a more immediate and strong influence on a child then them seeing a drink prepared!

  • VoiceOfReason

    This was the doing of a politician that has a serious personal issue with alcohol, Michael Waddoups. What’s scary about this is, this man’s obsession with alcohol restrictions manage to make it through the voting process and get enacted into law. Tells you a lot about our political makeup, anything to tighten or restrict alcohol consumption of any kind will get passed without any sort of actual logic or evidence supporting it. Welcome to Utah.

  • Josh

    I can definitely see there is no Separation of Church and State in Utah, which let me inform all of you that it is against the Constitution for any “Nation State” to be influenced by the decisions made by a religious organization or religion.

  • voiceofReason

    Younger LDS are more progressive, but the traditional LDS Utahns its about keeping their world flat, unchanged, unchallenged and homogenous. Its frustrating to deal with these people but eventually you can learn to tune them out. What they dont understand is that change is coming and is already occurring, just not in the politicians. Utah politicians who wield the most power tend to have the “traditionalist” Utah frame of mind, and that’s where change is most difficult in our Political makeup.

  • Berto Al Martinez

    If you all really want to make a difference, read the transcript of the hearing where it was brought down by Stan Rasmussen of the Sutherland Institute. HB285 is the bill that takes away the ZIon Curtain. http://sutherlandinstitute.org/news/2014/03/06/testimony-on-hb-285-alcoholic-beverage-service-amendments/

    His claims seem to come from the LDS, because the reason to now pass that biil was to “…to protect vulnerable people – especially children and recovering alcoholics – from unnecessary exposure to a culture of drinking in the dining environment of a restaurant.”

    I think the appropriate response to that comment is “they can go to a restaurant that doesn’t sell alcohol.” Easy as that. Calls your reps, your senators, and tell them you won’t vote for them for following such ridiculous ideas.

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