A polished House Bill 442 that would tear down the Utah’s much-mocked Zion Curtain is poised to pass the Legislature without much opposition.
HB442, if passed, would also increase the markup on alcoholic beverages—raising $4 million-$5 million—to fund training for bar workers, anti-underage-drinking programs for kids and put whatever’s left over into the state’s general fund.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Brad Wilson, ran into heavy weather this week from many bar and dining club-license owners for reasons unrelated to the so called Zion Curtain, a 7-foot barrier meant to keep children from being mesmerized by the sight of mixology. As late as Wednesday, the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association promised its members that it would oppose the bill if it would hurt their businesses, but that obstacle appears to have been removed in the rejiggered bill.
Rep. Brad Wilson
Wilson, GOP majority leader and attorneys labored long hours since the bill was introduced in the House Business and Labor Committee Wednesday to tweak and correct the language, removing many of the minor objections, such as a glitch with wine service rules for people who bring their own bottle to a restaurant.
Also, a shift of the cost of drink mixers to the food side of a restaurant’s ledger rather the liquor side should make it simpler for phased-out dining clubs to meet the onerous 70 percent food/30 percent alcohol ratio they must meet to operate under a restaurant license.
The law would still offer restaurants a choice of a 10-foot zone (aka “Mormon Moat,” “DMZ”) between the bar and where minors could be seated or 6-feet from the bar with a 42-inch-high railing (“pony wall”) or other barrier dividing the bar area and the restaurant or the Zion Curtain that blocks anyone from seeing drinks prepared.
Most hospitality businesses see this as not only doable, but similar to rules in other states, including Washington. In exchange, the widely mocked Zion Curtain that reinforced the economic development-killing “You can’t get a drink in Utah” image would disappear.
Now, all that stands in the way of the demise of the Zion Curtain is the Eagle Forum and other so-called family advocacy groups who have made it clear they like the the barrier because, with no statistical support, they believe it protects children from becoming alcohol abusers.
That opposition will likely cave because, reportedly, the LDS Church favors the polished HB442 that removes the ridicule that the state endured since 2009.
The states anti-drinking forces will also be molified by House Bill 155 that will lower the blood alcohol level for a DUI from 0.08 to 0.05 grams, which is results roughly from one drink imbibed over one hour. HB155 is being debated in the Senate and appears hellbent for passage.