Utah's Zion Curtains Come Crashing Down | KUER 90.1

Utah's Zion Curtains Come Crashing Down

Jul 1, 2017

At Current Fish & Oyster in Salt Lake City, owner Joel LaSalle and general manager Andrew Cliburn could not wait to take down the frosted glass panels covering the bar.

On July 1 at 9 a.m. they unscrewed each panel one by one, took them outside to the patio, and threw the glass to the ground, shattering it.

Current general manager Andrew Cliburn smiles after he throws and breaks what used to be part of the seafood restaurant's state-mandated Zion Curtain barrier.
Credit Nicole Nixon

With help from friends and family, they broke each of the five panels, then got behind the newly-revealed bar to celebrate with a glass of champagne.

Portions of a liquor reform law passed earlier this year took effect Saturday. That means the first Zion Curtains in Utah have begun to fall.

“Look how fabulous this bar looks, and we’ve never seen it before,” LaSalle says to applause from friends, family and workers at the restaurant.

“Thank you UDABC, legislature,” he says. “Thank you very much.”  

LaSalle says customers didn’t want to sit at the bar and face an opaque glass wall, and that cost him.

“Over the last two years it probably cost us $350,000 in sales,” he says.

Current Fish & Oyster owner Joel LaSalle (left) and general manager Andrew Cliburn celebrate removal of their bar's barrier with a champagne toast.
Credit Nicole Nixon

While LaSalle says he was happy to be able to take down the barrier in front of his bar, he initially didn’t support the law that allowed him to do so. He says House Bill 442 had too many tradeoffs.

“We think our customer paid too high of a price,” he says, including “higher prices on already high-priced alcohol.”

On Saturday the state’s markup on liquor rose from 86 percent to 88 percent.

And because of the new rules dictating that an establishment without a wall covering or separating the bar area of a restaurant, Current has to go with the third option: no children seated within 10 feet of the dispensing area. At Current, that means no one under 21 can be seated at the three tables closest to the bar.