Combined alcohol bill advances, sans 'Zion Curtain' removal

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The Senate passed legislation Wednesday that combines several liquor-law bills that had been progressing through the Legislature —┬ábut now excludes eliminating Utah's so-called "Zion Curtain."

It voted 25-1 to pass HB228, and returned it to the House. The House later refused by voice vote to accept Senate changes, so both bodies appointed a conference committee to negotiate changes.

Sponsoring Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, excluded language to remove the Zion Curtain or Zion Wall, as it is popularly referred to: an opaque, 7-foot-2 barrier that conceals the drink preparation area from dining patrons. Supporters say that seeing drinks poured or prepared can be enticing to children.

The House earlier had voted 63-11 to remove the Zion Curtain, but that move was opposed in the Senate. Valentine said the barrier makes restaurants more family friendly, and helps reduce a "culture of alcohol."

The combined bill would allow restaurant chains to get a single liquor license, instead of getting a new license for each eatery. That is expected to free up a number of restaurant licenses, which are in short demand and, restaurateurs have complained, has stymied expansion.

It also imposes a mandatory fine of $1,500 for retailers that serve alcohol to minors, increasing with each violation and allows so-called "flights," which are tastings of a liquor, wine or beer.

Lee Davidson