Utah liquor bill would swap ‘Zion Curtains’ for buffer zones

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah lawmaker introduced a proposal Monday allowing restaurants to get rid of barriers known as “Zion Curtains” that are designed to visually obscure the making of drinks. But in exchange, they’d be required to install a buffer zone around bars or areas where drinks are prepared.

The buffer zones would have to be 10 feet from the rest of the dining room or a waiting area and walled off and be off limits to anyone under 21 years old. Restaurants would have to scan the IDs of customers who want to sit in that area, though customers over 21 could still consume alcohol if they’re seated in the dining room or dispensing area.

Restaurants that choose not to build a buffer area would instead have to keep or build Zion Curtains, which are a reference to Utah’s teetotaler Mormon population. Zion Curtains are often visual barriers like frosted glass panels atop counters or a separate back room for making drinks.

The Utah-based Mormon church instructs members to abstain from drinking alcohol and weighs in on the state’s liquor rules. A message seeking comment from the Mormon church was not immediately returned Monday.

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The Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association criticized the plan, warning the buffer zones would be impossible for small restaurants.

Kaysville Republican Rep. Brad Wilson, who sponsors the proposal, told reporters at a midday news conference that at least a dozen states already require restaurants to have something like a 21-and-older bar area. He said Utah, like those other states, wants to keep children from sitting in bars.

He acknowledged that the changes may be tough for some restaurants, especially smaller venues, saying, “There are a few where it’s a little tricky to figure it out, so we’re trying to work through that.”

This is the latest attempt to address the controversial partitions.

The barrier requirement…

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