‘Zion Curtain’ bill is a good compromise | ParkRecord.com

‘Zion Curtain’ bill is a good compromise

The Park Record editorial, March 4-7, 2017

Utah's infamous "Zion Curtain" could be on its way out. And that's something Park City should drink to.

H.B. 442, a bill that would drastically change some of Utah's main liquor laws, is moving through the Utah Legislature. As an alternative to the Zion Curtain — the partition restaurants must erect to shield patrons from seeing liquor dispensed — establishments would have two options: maintain a 10-foot area around the bar or dispensing area where minors aren't allowed, or build a 42-inch railing or wall that delineates the bar from dining space.

The bill, while certainly a compromise, is seen as a victory among many in the restaurant industry, which has been fighting to strike down the Zion Curtain for years, ever since the regulation was put in place in 2009 as part of the agreement to do away with Utah's arcane private club membership requirements. Park City's restaurants and tourism industry, in particular, have been frustrated because stories about the Zion Curtain and the state's other quirky liquor laws continue to percolate across the country, making some apprehensive about visiting because of fears they'd be unable to walk into a Main Street restaurant and order a cocktail after an exhausting day on the slopes.

This legislation would be an important, if imperfect, step toward healing that reputation and putting Utah's liquor laws more in line with the rest of the country. In addition to doing away with the Zion Curtain, the bill would require dining clubs — essentially restaurants that don't allow minors — to become either bars or full-service restaurants. Operators of dining clubs would face a difficult decision, but for patrons, who must currently state an "intent to dine" in restaurants before being served alcohol but not in nearly identical clubs, it would eliminate an unnecessary layer of confusion.

Despite the progress, though, it's unfortunate Utah lawmakers continue to believe it is their role to micromanage restaurants in the name of protecting minors from being exposed to the dangers of alcohol. No reasonable person would argue against the state doing all it can to prevent underage drinking, but the restaurant industry has fought so hard against the Zion Curtain because the partitions are a hindrance that does little to aid that effort.

Likewise, it's hard to imagine how the alternatives to the Zion Curtain proposed in H.B. 442 would be any more effective at keeping minors from imbibing. It would be far preferable if restaurants could serve patrons without having to comply with needless regulations. Making servers ID customers before they order a drink is sensible. Measures that prevent overconsumption are, too. But requiring that minors are seated 11 feet away from the bar instead of nine? That's a little harder to understand, even if it is an improvement over the current system.

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If H.B. 442 passes, perhaps we'll get better solutions during the next round of liquor-law reform. But that will likely be several years away. Until then, pour one out for the Zion Curtain and wish it good riddance.