Lawmaker hints at possibility ‘Zion Curtains’ may fall

SALT LAKE CITY -- The senator tasked by the Utah State Legislature's Republican majority with overseeing liquor legislation tells FOX 13 he may consider removing so-called "Zion Curtains" from restaurants.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, acknowledged he was exploring the possibility of legislation to remove the separate preparation areas which prevent you from seeing drinks being made in restaurants.

"What I'm looking to do is still open. I think as we discuss this with various parties as we get closer to the legislative session, we'll probably have some language to put in a bill," he said in an interview with FOX 13 on Tuesday. "Once we do that, we'll start negotiating with all the parties that seem to want a say with liquor legislation in the state of Utah."

Nicknamed "Zion Curtains," they have become a symbol of the divide over Utah's liquor laws. Defenders insist the separate preparation areas protect children and promote responsible drinking. Opponents have derided them as ineffective and insist they add to Utah's reputation for "quirky" liquor laws.

The "Zion Curtain" at the Hive Winery in Layton, put up by the owners as a political protest of Utah liquor laws. (Image by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

The "Zion Curtain" at the Hive Winery in Layton, put up by the owners as a political protest of Utah liquor laws. (Image by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

"I've decided the Zion Curtain is more of a perception than a reality issue," Sen. Stevenson said. "However, there are those that would like to see some changes made there."

The senator noted that Utah is not alone in having separate preparation areas (Wyoming has them as well), but he said he was willing to consider legislation to remove them -- if it came hand-in-hand with other restrictions. Sen. Stevenson spoke to FOX 13 following the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission's monthly meeting, where dozens faced discipline for alcohol service violations. The DABC's top violations include sales to minors and

While not divulging details on any pending legislation, the senator suggested stronger training may be put in place for servers to ensure that minors aren't served alcohol and adults aren't over-served, or proximity restrictions near bars in restaurants.

"If there is a compromise, it will be because of maybe some of the other issues attached to the Zion Curtain," he said.

A Zion Curtain inside a Utah restaurant.

A Zion Curtain inside a Utah restaurant.

The Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association expressed a willingness to work with lawmakers on more education and training if it helped to get rid of Zion Curtains.

"We don't want underage drinking. We don't want drunk drivers and we don't want overconsumption," said Michele Corigliano, the association's executive director. "What the Zion Curtain does is it blocks the bartender from having interaction. They don't know if people are over-served. They don't know if people are switching drinks."

Corigliano said members of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association have long complained about the negative perceptions of Zion Curtains, including tourists. She praised Sen. Stevenson for being willing to listen to them, and consider the impact of liquor legislation on businesses and restaurant customers.

"This is a big deal to our independent restaurants in Salt Lake City and Utah," she said.