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Cancel the wrecking balls. The push to tear down the "Zion Curtain" that has plagued Utah restaurants for years is running into some opposition.
On Wednesday night, Gov. Gary Herbert praised efforts by House Majority Leader Brad Wilson and Sen. Jerry Stevenson to reform Utah's liquor laws, to make sure that, as a state, we "enhance what works for Utah, and repeal what does not."
The cornerstone of the alcohol reform that Wilson and Stevenson are proposing to finally do away with the Zion Curtain a 7-foot barrier required in new restaurants to block children from seeing drinks being prepared.
In exchange for getting rid of the Zion Curtain, restaurants are willing to take a number of steps to ensure that we don't end up with runaway underage drinking, binge drinking and drunken driving.
But on Thursday, Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser voiced concerns about the reform proposals.
"Utah has some of the best outcomes from our alcohol laws on the planet," Adams said. "We have one of the lowest rates of alcohol. … Much of that is because of our social norms here, but we've had alcohol laws that actually have served us very well."
Niederhauser said he wants to be sure that the line between restaurants and bars is not blurred and he wants to see "something substantial to help us move forward in reducing" underage drinking, binge drinking and DUIs.
If lawmakers are uncomfortable with the trade-offs, Adams said, "There's a high probability that nothing happens."
The reservations expressed are significant for two reasons. Not only are they coming from Republican leaders, but they are coming from leaders in the Senate, where alcohol reform efforts have historically gone to die.
Utah restaurants, to their credit, have come to the table with some concessions.
They are willing to go along with a 1 percent increase in the state markup on alcohol from 86 percent to 87 percent with the proceeds going to pay for educational efforts.
A few restaurants that now have both a club license and a restaurant license would have to choose one or the other, so the line between the two isn't blurred.
Currently, children cannot sit at the bar at a restaurant, but the new proposal would create a 10-foot buffer around the bar where children would not be allowed. And a new permit is likely for grocery stores and convenience stores, which aren't regulated by the state.
Those aren't insignificant trade-offs, but they also aren't onerous and costly government mandates, like having to build a wall would be.
Defenders of the Zion Curtain point to studies that show that a child exposed to alcohol consumption is more prone to underage drinking than those who are not.
The question then becomes: Where are children exposed to drinking?
Well, start at the home, where that exposure is most likely to happen.
Then turn on the television. A new study out this month from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that alcohol marketing led to earlier drinking and higher consumption among youth.
A previous study by the center noted a dramatic increase in the amount of alcohol advertising children are seeing.
Lawmakers are limited in regulating those areas not that they haven't tried so they came up with the curtain that has proven to be a clumsy, ineffective burden that also happens to be full of holes.
For example, take your kids to a Jazz game or a Real Salt Lake match, family-friendly events, and you'll see beer being poured and handed directly to fans something that restaurants in Utah could never get away with.
Or go to a restaurant built before 2009, when the Zion Curtain was put into law. Those establishments were grandfathered in and don't have to build the wall.
Or notice the beer taps and lines of bottles that restaurants can display behind what looks like a functioning bar. The taps aren't attached to anything, and bartenders can't use the bottles, but the state tried to ban the displays and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told them they couldn't.
Niederhauser recognizes the flaws in the curtain.
"There is some unfairness," he said. "I'm hoping we can ... create that consistency and fairness and maintain the objectives."
There are better ways to achieve lawmakers' objectives. It starts with parenting.
The 2013 Student Health and Risk Prevention Survey reported that just 15 percent of high school seniors whose parents had made clear that underage drinking was wrong had ever used alcohol, compared to nearly 65 percent of students whose parents hadn't set clear boundaries.
I get it. I have two kids, and parenting these days is no picnic. But I'm not expecting the state to do the job for me.
The bottom line is: Walls don't work. Parenting does. So tear down the wall and talk to your kid instead.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @RobertGehrke