Utah eliminates “Zion Curtains”
SALT LAKE CITY» A trendy downtown Salt Lake City seafood restaurant started business Saturday with glass-smashing and champagne, a symbolic gesture in its emancipation from Utah’s so-called “Zion Curtains” alcohol law.
“It feels fabulous and liberating. It’s a hallelujah moment,” said Joel LaSalle, owner of Current Fish & Oyster. “It’ll make our restaurant twice as beautiful because you can actually see the $100,000 bar and wall.”
The new liquor law went into effect Saturday, making wine, liquor and higher-alcohol beer more expensive while also allowing some restaurants to take down walls and partitions that were meant to prevent customers from seeing their alcoholic drinks being mixed and poured.
The broad liquor law passed in March eased a longtime requirement that drinks be prepared behind barriers known as “Zion Curtains,” typically glass walls or back rooms. It’s based on the premise that the barriers shield children from alcohol culture and what some perceive as the glamour of bartending, and prevents underage drinking.
The Zion Curtain nickname is a reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which plays an influential role in state liquor policy.
The rule has been a longtime thorn in the side of Utah’s restaurant industry, which has complained that the barriers can be ugly and awkward, and point out that children can still see customers drinking alcohol. They also argued the rule punished newer restaurants, because those built before 2009 were not required to have a barrier.