SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that tried to tear down the so-called "Zion Curtains" that keep you from seeing a drink being made in restaurants will not advance in the Utah State Legislature.
Senate Bill 141, sponsored by Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, was put on hold by a unanimous committee vote while lawmakers look at it over the next year in a study period. Dabakis had pushed for the removal of the "separate preparation areas," calling them "weird."
"It simply doesn't work. It's awkward. It's annoying. It's miserable. It creates a weirdness level that we don't deserve. It ought to be torn down and it ought to be torn down immediately!" he declared to the committee on Tuesday morning.
Dabakis claimed the Zion Curtains hurt Utah's tourism and economic development.
"One more day of a Zion Curtain is one more day that we are not living up to our fulfillment as a state," he said.
But Dabakis faced pushback from his fellow senators, who pointed out that Utah is not alone on "unique" liquor laws. Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, read a list of states with restrictive liquor laws.
"We're not alone," he said.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, pressed Dabakis on the Zion Curtains, noting that the idea came from Wyoming.
"Do you have any data showing whether tourism has dropped in Salt Lake City or Jackson, Wyoming since the seven foot wall law was enacted?" Weiler asked.
"Just having sat in many a bar and restaurant listening to tourists talking," Dabakis replied.
Weiler pushed Dabakis on a claim that women feared Zion Curtains because they couldn't see their drinks being made and someone could slip something in it.
"Do you have any accounts of that happening?" Weiler asked.
"I have stories from women that are concerned about it," Dabakis said.
"Are any of them here today?"
Public comment was overwhelmingly against the Zion Curtain bill, with advocates saying it helped guard against underage drinking.
"It shields children from the glamour of bartending and sends a message that alcohol is different than soft drinks or juice," said Laura Bunker of United Families International.
Melva Sine of the Utah Restaurant Association said the problem is some restaurants have the walls and others don't. They were grandfathered in when the law was originally passed.
The Senate Business and Labor Committee also voted to study a pair of bills by Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, that would address morale issues within the DABC, Utah's liquor control authority.