What's the Status of the Controversial 'Zion Curtain' Law?

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 UTAH) - The 'Zion Curtain' will remain up for another year. The topic was tabled today on Capital Hill after Senators said they need more data to support taking it down.

Lawmakers and lobbyists agree the issue is Utah's image when it comes to alcohol.

Senate Bill 141 was drafted to take down a curtain or wall preventing people from seeing their alcoholic drinks prepared.  Senator Jim Dabakis of District 2 said it hurts Utah's image with the nation and world.

"If we are going to have weird liquor laws, and they save lives or keep youngsters from drinking it's fine with me. But weird just to be weird in an unjustifiable labyrinth of craziness that shouldn't happen," said Sen. Dabakis.

But it's that image of alcohol being poured in front of children that has lobbyists opposing the bill .

"Well, the 'Zion Curtain,' that is what it is called, it just gives children the idea that alcohol is dangerous. said Laura Bunker with the United Families International Utah Chapter. "We need all of the messaging to children that we can get that alcohol is dangerous because children think differently and drink differently than adults. They tend to binge drink."

Bunker goes on to say, "If children grow up in this alcohol environment, then they grow up knowing alcohol needs to be treated with care and that it is dangerous."

The former director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Art Brown says he is against having children in bars and if the curtain comes down restaurants would become a bar.

"The prevention of underage drinking is very important and the list of harms is as long as your arms so it is very important that the exposure to alcohol to kids is really maintained in the state," said Brown. "Regardless of the conversation, if they see it is pleasurable they are going to drink and the more pleasurable they see it the more they are going to drink."

Other lobbyists say the 'Zion Curtain' would cause restaurants to focus on alcohol sales.

"While there are issues that warrant attention it makes sense to look at it in the aggregate and the whole," said Stan Rasmussen with the Sutherland Institute.

The Utah Restaurant Association out of 4,600 restaurants only 1,200 have some sort of alcohol license.

"Those restaurants sell 7-9 percent of all alcohol sold in the state," said Melva Sine with the Utah Restaurant Association. "I don't really want the restaurant industry to be represented as some sort of alcohol mongering group that is out there just to make a bunch of money at the cost of anything. It is really hard to make money on alcohol in the state of Utah because the mark up is so high."

Senator Dabakis says the bill would have protected men and women from being potentially drugged.

"Women are assaulted as roofie's are placed in their alcohol and the reports that law enforcement issues always say look for a chain of custody, watch the bartender pour it, watch who brings it, so that you can protect yourself," said the senator. "We go out of our way to make sure that a young woman or anyone else can't see that drink being poured. That's not safe."

The senator was asked if he had data to support the issue since the 'Zion Curtain' was passed and he said no.

The senator says this issue is just politics at its best.

"For them to bring in all these side issues about DUIs and underage drinking...that's how needy they were for an excuse, any excuse to keep up this senseless wall that the mast majority of Utahns, Mormon and non-Mormon want torn down."

Sen. Dabakis says he will bring data needed the next time he brings this bill up, but for right now the Zion Curtain remains.

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