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Sen. John Valentine, who is leaving the Legislature to head the Utah Tax Commission, said last week he regretted his compromise in 2009 that allowed existing restaurants to avoid the costly construction of barriers to hide the mixing and pouring of alcoholic drinks from patrons.
Valentine, the go-to guy during the past several years for liquor-law reform, sponsored the bill that required new restaurants to build the so-called "Zion Curtain," but exempted existing restaurants from the rule.
Now, he says, that was a mistake. Proponents of the barrier have maintained that if children see drinks being made from their often-colorful containers, it would encourage them to try alcoholic beverages.
Valentine, speaking to the Alcohol Policy Summit at the Utah Capitol, reiterated his argument that supporting the hospitality industry must be balanced by concerns about alcohol's societal effects.
But neither he nor other supporters of the 7-foot-high Zion Curtain have said anything about the lack of a barrier requirement for restaurants at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
Those diners don't fall under the same statutory guidelines. They are governed instead by a section of the code called Airport Lounge Requirements. Those restaurants have no Zion Curtain rule and can begin serving drinks at 8 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. like other eateries.
So Valentine and most Utah lawmakers apparently feel the need to protect Utahns and their children from the temptations of alcohol, but those non-Utahns passing through or arriving for a short visit are mature enough to handle the booze viewing without special government protections.
Or perhaps these visitors just aren't worth saving as much as the children of Zion.
Gateway drug to nuke hype • Christopher Thomas, executive director of the environmental group HEAL Utah, took issue in a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed this week with what he called exaggerated claims by the principals of Blue Castle Holdings about their progress toward construction of a nuclear power plant near Green River.
He belittled comments made by Blue Castle CEO and former state Rep. Aaron Tilton that Blue Castle has a deal with Westinghouse to build the plant, which it doesn't; that the Utah Legislature has ensured Blue Castle access to new transmission capacity, which it hasn't; that utilities must consider nuclear in their long-range planning which, according to Thomas, they already do and have rejected.
But we shouldn't fault Tilton for hyping his project and for his unfettered optimism. It's part of his political upbringing.
After all, when he was in the Legislature, he was a Viagra salesman.
Phone scam hits senator • It seems nobody is immune from telephone scams not even a prominent Utah senator.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, says his wife, Susan, got a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS and demanding payment for an alleged unpaid tax debt.
"As a certified public accountant who knows every dime that goes in and out of our accounts, my antenna immediately went up," said Bramble. He said his wife described the caller as verbally abusive and convincing.
The caller, who said his name was Steve Martin, said he was with the Department of Legal Affairs in the IRS.
"There is no Department of Legal Affairs in the IRS," Bramble said. The caller claimed Bramble owed $3,500 and wanted the couple to pay it with a credit card over the phone.
When Susan Bramble hung up on him, he called back four times, said Bramble. The senior partner in Bramble's CPA firm got a similar call.
Department of Commerce Executive Director Francine Giani says the IRS scam is making its rounds through Utah.
Besides demands of payment over the phone, some callers are claiming the person has a refund coming in an effort to obtain personal bank information.
As of Aug. 18, Giani said, Utahns reported $28,000 in losses due to bogus IRS calls.