Utah is considering a major change in its liquor laws. Under the current liquor rules, restaurants are required to have what are referred to as “Zion curtains,” which are barriers that keep patrons from seeing drinks made. Restaurants are also required to only serve alcoholic drinks to patrons that are ordering food. Utah residents could see these conservative laws go away if certain lawmakers get their way.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have worked to change Utah liquor rules. Zion curtains, which are 7-foot-2-inch barriers that keep children and other patrons from seeing alcoholic drinks being prepared, were done away with by the Utah governor in 2009. Legislators brought them back in 2010. Four years later, lawmakers are considering not only doing away with Zion curtains, but changing another conservative law as well.
State representative Kraig Powell says that the current Utah liquor rules, particularly the rule where patrons are required to purchase food to order an alcoholic drink, are confusing for patrons and wait staff. “The servers don’t know how really to ask that properly sometimes without offending people,” said Powell. “It’s something they’re not used to in other places.”
Utah House speaker Becky Lockhart says that there is no data to support that the Zion Curtain law is worthwhile. “Then let’s do those things that get us toward those goals, and let’s let go of those things that don’t, and that we don’t have any data to support. I believe that the Zion Curtain is one of those,” she said. “All I really want to talk about and learn about and come to terms with is this weird thing that we have that somewhere off in the distance in a restaurant there might be someone who is mixing a drink for a customer.”
As strict as the rules seem, opponents of scaling back the Utah liquor rules have a good reason for wanting to keep things the same. They say that the current rules contribute to Utah having the lowest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the country and don’t understand why people want to change a good thing. “My attitude about alcohol in Utah is, I wouldn’t mess with success,” said David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. As far as public health is concerned, Jernigan says that Utah is the “envy of the nation.”
While some people think Utah’s liquor rules make the state look backwards, Latter Day Saints church member D. Todd Christofferson doesn’t care. “People look at Utah and say, ‘That’s weird, that’s a crazy system they have there.’ They’re really not recognizing that it’s different everywhere,” said Christofferson. “So what if we’re fodder for a few jokes and ridicule on late-night TV? For me that’s a very small price to pay for one less family that lost their wife and mother in a drunk driving accident or one less teenager who has become addicted to alcohol and all the poor decisions and problems that come from that.”
Check out Chrstofferson’s statement on the liquor laws in Utah below.
Image via Wikimedia Commons