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Gov. Gary Herbert uncorked support Thursday for two alcohol reform bills that are making their way through the Legislature.
That included praising HB442, which would offer two new alternatives to the much-maligned "Zion Curtain," the 7-foot-tall barrier that prevents children from seeing drinks mixed in restaurants.
And he lauded HB155, which would make Utah the first state in the nation to lower the legal limit for blood-alcohol content for drivers from 0.08 to 0.05.
Herbert offered support for how HB442 now would allow restaurants to choose between a Zion Curtain or creating instead a 10-foot buffer around bars where children could not sit, or installing a 42-inch railing or half-wall about six feet from a bar to draw a line where minors are allowed.
"I think that's probably a wise way to go and let the private sector make that determination," he told reporters in a weekly press availability. "Let's get you to have the opportunity to make your own decision, what's in your own best business interests."
Some older restaurants that previously were grandfathered against needing any barriers have complained the change could cost them big money for renovations. But Herbert said the bill would put all restaurants on equal footing, facing the same regulations.
The governor noted that during his State of the State address, he called for a review of liquor laws and removing portions that do not make sense. He said Thursday that he believes the Zion Curtain will disappear eventually even if it may not be politically possible now.
"I suspect that over time, the preparation wall is going to cease to exist," he said.
When asked if he believes seeing drinks mixed makes children more likely to drink, he said, "I don't think there's any data one way or the other. It's kind of a hunch people have, a perception people have, but it's not based on any scientific data."
He added, "I think that's been the big problem. I think that's why there's some willingness to discuss" adding options to or removing the Zion Curtain, as part of a much larger bill to add more programs to prevent underage drinking and training programs for restaurant and bar owners.
Herbert said the bill to make Utah's the toughest drunken driving laws in the county underlines that drinking at all and then driving is dangerous. The proposed 0.05 limit could be reached by an average male adult after three drinks, and two drinks for a female.
The bill "is a warning to people: be careful when you get behind the wheel. What we are saying is: if you are impaired, don't drive."
He said the 0.05 limit is working well in the 100-plus countries in the world including most of Europe that have already adopted the standard, and figures it would also work well in Utah.