In Utah, Bad Booze Bills Never Die
It’s been a little over five years since Utah tore it down, but the infamous “Zion Curtain” has risen from the dead. Like a zombie in a bad horror film, America’s most ridiculed alcohol law is apparently unkillable.
The Zion Curtain has made headlines over the past several decades as one of the most glaring examples of our country’s antiquated and nonsensical system of alcohol regulation. In its original iteration, the law required a physical wall to be in place that separated the area behind the bar where drinks were mixed from the restaurant’s customers.
The intent behind the rule was supposedly to shield children from watching drinks being made. Seeing a mixologist at work, the theory went, could lure kids into glamorizing and romanticizing alcohol, which in turn might lead them to the bottle. Given these moralistic rationales, many cited the powerful lobbying presence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah, which contributed to the law’s nickname.
Regardless of the reasons for the law, the infeasibility and financial costs imposed by the Curtain became impossible to ignore: Restaurants reported missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in lost sales due to the fact that few customers wanted to sip on an old fashioned while staring at a wall 6 inches from their face.
Finally, in 2017, a partial reform passed the state Legislature. The Zion Curtain was replaced by what some called a “Zion DMZ”—the walls could come down, but children were still prohibited from sitting within 10 feet of a bar. Despite the partial nature of the reform, restaurateurs were rightly relieved to catch up to the rest of the country when it came to the aesthetics of the bar.
But bad ideas never truly go away, especially when the government is involved. In an attempt to create a new banquet license, which would allow restaurants to host private parties on their premises,
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