Coinciding (coincidentally, I’m sure) with the Governor’s Office’s report on DABC, the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association alerted its members to lobby for liquor law changes in upcoming legislative session coming at the end of January.
SLARA President and restarateur Joel LaSalle, above, has been meeting with legislators preparing the ground for a major push for liberalizing Utah’s liquor laws. “It seems that most everyone’s common priority is addressing the Zion Curtain, and we are told that the church representatives are open to discussions on that subject,” LaSalle wrote.
In an interview with Salt Lake magazine, LaSalle stressed that the Zion Curtain, far and away, is the issue uniting restaurateurs. The so-called Curtain is a seven-foot barrier that blocks customers’ view of bartenders mixing or pouring drinks. The Legislature feared seeing cocktails being concocted could lead to alcohol abuse.
LaSalle believes that, more than making the state look ridiculous to visitors, the Zion Curtain re-confirms the false impression “that you can’t get a drink in Utah” and is undercutting the state’s efforts to draw conventions and tourists.
Here’s the newsletter in its entirety:
Dear SLARA Members:
The board has been active in meeting with several interest groups and legislators from both the House and the Senate on the upcoming legislative session for movement on the current liquor laws. It seems that most everyone’s common priority is addressing the Zion Curtain, and we are told that the church representatives are open to discussions on that subject. Church priorities are underage drinking, alcoholism and drunk driving, and they are welcoming ideas from our industry that could help in any way on those issues.
Both the legislature and the church seem to feel an urgency in addressing our major issues, but I also know that any concessions they make will require concessions from our industry as well. For example, the grand fathering laws on liquor that go far beyond the Zion Curtain will probably go away- we’ll keep you posted on exactly what that means and how it impacts your businesses. In the meantime, we are hosting the lead Senate and House representatives for a lunch at Current Fish & Oyster to review the curtain issues, as well as storage (public view) that makes little sense to most of us.
Again, we will keep you posted as to our progress and whether we need SLARA members up on the hill to speak as independent owners to the legislature in support of our cause. We will also let you know if we decide to hire our own lobbyist for the upcoming session and how you can help us to support him/her in making as big an impact as possible for this session. Please respond to the SLARA email or Chantelle directly if any of you have any thoughts on how our industry could help the church in further supporting their goals in reducing underage drinking, alcoholism and drunk driving.
Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association