N. Ogden lawmaker digs in heels over 'Zion Curtain' compromise bill

Mar 13 2013 - 11:39pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-North Ogden, has dug in his heels on the future of a "Zion Curtain" in local restaurants, effectively killing a proposed compromise crafted by House and Senate leaders Tuesday.

Wilcox and members of the House refused to agree with a compromise package introduced Wednesday afternoon by Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, effectively forcing the two bodies to set up a conference committee to see if a final agreement can be worked out and approved by midnight Thursday.

Wilcox had proposed legislation to remove what is known as the Zion Curtain, a special liquor preparation area for restaurants, but that bill was gutted and merged into HB 228, which Valentine said was the combination of three alcohol-related pieces of legislation.

Valentine has been clear that he supports a separate preparation area and indicated earlier this session that he would only consider taking the walls down if other public-safety concessions were made.

He said he worries about the culture of alcohol in Utah and wants to make sure there is a difference between bars and restaurants.

Wilcox said the Zion Curtain has unfairly hurt new and small restaurants and that no one has been able to define what the culture of alcohol actually means.

He said it is disappointing that new restaurants serving alcohol are penalized by the restriction, which creates an unfair environment for some restaurants to compete in.

Besides leaving the Zion Curtain in place, Valentine's compromise plan reduces the proposed fines for serving alcohol to minors. Under the new guidelines, restaurants or bars serving minors would face a $1,500 fine for the first offense, a $3,000 fine for the second offense and a $10,000 fine for a third offense.

The bill also allows chain restaurants to hold one permit for multiple restaurant locations. Wilcox called the provision a good change.

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