Bill could replace ‘Zion Curtains’ with bar/lounge areas

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SALT LAKE CITY -- At Dean Pierose's Cucina restaurant in the Avenues, the "Zion Curtain" is inconspicuously located next to the deli counter.

It's no small feat to hide a seven-foot wall mandated by the state if you want to serve alcohol with a meal.

"I have mixed feelings about it, honestly," Pierose said in a recent interview with FOX 13.

The separate preparation areas have generated a lot of controversy over the years. Many restaurants openly despise them, and the lawmaker who called for them later regretted not forcing every restaurant to have one. Other lawmakers have called for them to be torn down, declaring them "weird."

A sign at Cucina in Salt Lake City's Avenues neighborhood. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

A sign at Cucina in Salt Lake City's Avenues neighborhood. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

A new bill being drafted in the Utah State Legislature will once again attempt to tear them down, noting that many tourists find them odd.

"This particular law that still exists is questionable for our out-of-state guests," said Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber. "I think the millions of dollars we spend on promotion to only get negative comments on this particular issue from those guests is counterproductive."

Powell told FOX 13 he is working on a bill that could get rid of the "Zion Curtains" by reclassifying the type of license a restaurant might get from Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control commission. Another idea he's considering would create a separate bar or lounge area in a restaurant where children would be banned.

"If we think outside the box, have a little creativity," he said. "There are separate areas that other states use. Some states even have a lounge area of the restaurant children can't be in."

The walls were designed in part to keep children from seeing drinks being made. But may restaurants were not required to install them because they were "grandfathered in" when the bill passed the legislature.

Pierose said a separate lounge area might not work for the layout of his restaurant, but it would be "much better than a seven foot wall that looks awkward in a lot of restaurants."

The "Zion Curtain" inside Cucina in the Avenues. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

The "Zion Curtain" inside Cucina in the Avenues. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

Asked about the idea of a bar/lounge area, the Utah Restaurant Association, which has long-opposed the Zion Curtains, said it would advise "do no harm" with any legislative action.  Rep. Powell's bill is one of many dealing with Utah liquor laws that is under consideration.

At his monthly news conference on KUED, Governor Gary Herbert acknowledged that liquor control generates hundreds of millions for state coffers and told reporters he did not believe liquor laws needed changing.

"I think the system works pretty well," the governor said. "I expect there will be proposals from other legislators as there always seems to be."

Pierose said that while he doesn't agree with Zion Curtains and thinks they should go, he has softened his stance on some of Utah's other liquor laws.

"As a licensee, I now say I don't want that there," Pierose said, motioning to his Zion Curtain. "But I think a lot of the funny laws protect our quality of life in Utah."