Utah’s ‘Zion curtain’ survives another challenge


(AP File Photo/Dave Martin)

The seven-foot wall that prevents young eyes in Utah from seeing alcoholic drinks being prepared has survived another challenge after lawmakers adjourned this week without taking up a bill to tear it down.

Some Utah lawmakers had called for an end to the so-called Zion Curtain, a 7-foot, 2-inch barrier that blocks diners’ views of bartenders who pour and mix drinks. Opponents say the barrier costs restaurants too much money and that, as alcohol becomes more prevalent in Utah, it doesn’t have the intended effect.

“This kind of law makes no sense in today’s marketplace. It’s bad for the hospitality industry and serves no legitimate public policy purpose,” said Ben Jenkins, a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council, which opposes the walls.

But Mormon church leaders urged lawmakers to keep the barrier. State Rep. Kraig Powell (R), who sponsored the measure to remove it, said it was that lobbying that prevented him from winning over supporters.

Utah is the only state in the union that requires the curtain, and legislators have worked for years to remove it. In 2009, Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) signed legislation that would allow some restaurants to take it down, but legislators brought back the requirement the following year, once Huntsman had left office.

A similar bill to end the Zion curtain died in last year’s legislature as well.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson · March 14