The long-awaited legislation that could bring down the barriers known as Zion Curtains was unveiled at the Utah Legislature Monday, but the restaurant walls are just one of many potential changes to Utah’s alcohol policy included the 144-page bill.
Under Rep. Brad Wilson’s House Bill 442, Zion Curtains could come down, but it would come at a price. In 2018, Wilson says all restaurants would have to choose one of two options.
“One is to have separate storage and dispensing, which is affectionately known as a ‘Zion Wall.’ …Or you can choose to have a 10-foot buffer area,” Wilson told reporters on Monday.
Only people 21 and older would be permitted to sit in that 10-foot dispensing area, regardless of whether or not they want to drink. And Rep. Wilson says even restaurants previously grandfathered into the Zion Curtain law would have to either build one or institute a buffer zone.
“For those folks, it’s tricky to figure out,” Wilson, R-Kaysville, says. “I’ve talked to some, I’ve been in some of their establishments and it works great for them the way we’ve got it written, but there are a few that it’s a little tricky to figure it out. So, we’re trying to work through that.”
HB442 also includes a 2% markup on alcohol across the board, which Rep. Wilson says will help pay for underage drinking prevention programs. It would also rework licenses for restaurants and bars; create more training programs for servers and managers; shrink the required distance between community locations such as parks, schools and churches and restaurants which serve alcohol; and impose new requirements on the labeling and placement of malt beverages in grocery stores and convenience stores.
Wilson and his co-sponsor, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, are still meeting with stakeholders, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and restaurant groups, about the bill but called it “good alcohol policy.”
But some lawmakers are concerned that the bill could end up doing more harm than good. Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said small businesses would especially be impacted.
“Regulation on how they have to construct things and how they have to build things could negatively impact them,” Davis says. “Because they’re on such a small margin.”
Rep. Wilson’s alcohol bill was just made public on Monday, but with less than two weeks left in the legislative session, time is running out. The bill still needs a committee hearing before it can be debated in front of the full House.