We completely agree with Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, who calls Zion Curtains, partitions that prevent patrons from viewing bartenders and open liquor bottles at restaurants, "weird." They are very weird, and their presence in eateries makes Utah look silly.
Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, has sponsored House Bill 228, which would tear down the goofy partitions. We hope it gets through both bodies of the Utah Legislature. Its chances of success are better in the House than the Senate, though.
The chief reason for the bill's lower chance of Senate approval is the presence of Utah County's Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem. Valentine shares, along with too many other legislators, the belief that having youth view the mixing of drinks in a restaurant would make them want to start drinking,
In our opinion, Valentine and others are more motivated toward this view by their personal religious beliefs on drinking. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which many legislators belong, advocates that its members not drink alcoholic beverages.
It's inappropriate for a personal religious belief to be the tool that violates the rights of others to conduct business in a fair, responsible manner. The Zion Curtains are a hindrance to common-sense business practices. They insult restaurant employees by making their jobs more difficult, and they insult customers by making a simple request for a drink with dinner look like something forbidden and shameful. Also, the law is contradictory. Restaurants that opened before 2010 are not subject to the current Zion Curtain foolishness.
A very tiny percentage of alcohol is sold at restaurants; the vast majority is bought at state liquor stores. There is no serious evidence that a teenager who sees a drink being made at a restaurant will start drinking as a result. The Zion Curtain law needs to end. Wilcox's bill, HB 228, is the right mix to do it.