Utah Liquor Laws

A frosted glass curtain hides a portion of the bar at Brio Tuscan Grille at Fashion Place Mall in Murray City, Utah. 

SALT LAKE CITY | In heavily Mormon Utah, a lawmaker introduced a proposal this week allowing restaurants to stop using walls or backrooms known as "Zion Curtains" that block customers from seeing alcoholic drinks being made. Supporters say the longtime requirement helps curb underage drinking by hiding the glamour of bartending.

In exchange, restaurants in the state with some of the nation's strictest alcohol laws would be required to install a buffer zone around bars or areas where drinks are poured. A buffer zone extending 10 feet from the bar would be off-limits to those under 21. But the area could still be in full view of the rest of the restaurant, bill sponsor Republican Rep. Brad Wilson clarified Monday night.

Wilson said he's working on a change to allow a third option to create a smaller 5- to 6-foot buffer zone that's partitioned off by a half wall about 3.5 feet tall.

Customers who enter the buffer zones that appear to be under 35 years old would have their IDs scanned. Those seated in the dining room could still drink alcohol, but depending on the restaurant, they may or may not be able to see it prepared.

Restaurants that don't create a buffer area would have to keep or put in Zion Curtains, a reference to Utah's teetotaler Mormon population. They are often visual barriers like frosted glass panels atop counters or a separate back room for making drinks.

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which plays a big role in the state's liquor laws, appears to support the measure.

Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement that the bill appears to make "an admirable attempt" to address concerns about underage drinking and alcohol abuse and includes appropriate protections.

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