Utah lawmakers heed Mormon church, keep Zion Curtain

Change abandoned - Senate opposition kills bill to remove barriers at restaurant bars.

The Salt Lake Tribune/March 12, 2014

By Lee Davidson

The "Zion Curtain" at bars within Utah restaurants will remain, despite renewed attempts to tear it down that had gained more ground this year than many expected.

Because of opposition in the Senate, Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, has abandoned his HB285. It would have removed the 7-foot-2-inch opaque barrier that newer restaurants must have in bar areas so children can’t see alcoholic beverages being mixed or poured.

 "We had enough votes in the House to pass it," Powell said. But he never brought it up there after winning 8-7 committee approval after he proposed a compromise to allow restaurants either to keep the Zion Curtain or instead post notices on doors warning that they serve alcohol in public view. "But I never got any word back from any of the senators that they were willing to consider it," Powell said.

He added it wasn’t worth the time for a probably long debate on the House floor as time is scarce at the end of the session and "we didn’t think there was any chance the Senate would take it up."

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, confirmed Wednesday, "There really wasn’t any support over here."

He said, "The biggest issue here in the Senate is that we have made so many changes over each year that we think we have the balance pretty close to right."

He said the Zion Curtain came out of a compromise in 2009 to help make clear the difference between bars and restaurants. "Bars no longer have a membership requirement, no longer have to have plastic barriers that you couldn’t pass drinks across. So bars in Utah are just like bars everywhere else."

But Valentine said the deal included the Zion Curtain to make sure that restaurants were different, and focused on serving food.

"In Wyoming, where I stole the idea of the preparation area, has exactly the same language that we have," he said.

Both Valentine and Powell said a key reason the bill did not advance this year was opposition from the LDS Church. Before the session began, it issued a video and statement urging no changes in Utah liquor laws, including retaining the Zion Curtain.

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