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House Committee OKs Liquor Reform Bill

Nicole Nixon
Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, is flanked by Melva Sine (right) of the Utah Restaurant Association and Lincoln Shurtz (left) of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association, as he presents HB 442, March 1, 2017.

When Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, unveiled House Bill 442 earlier this week, he quickly ran into pushback from restaurant groups.  Many had concerns about having a choice limited to keeping up 7-foot barriers known as ‘Zion Curtains’ or instituting a 10-foot child-free buffer zone around a bar, what’s now being referred to as a ‘Zion Moat.’

Wilson tweaked the bill and presented an amended version to his colleagues on the House Business and Labor Committee Wednesday morning, which they approved. It would give restaurants a third option: to install a shorter railing, wall, or other physical structure at least six feet from the bar.

“This 42-inch permanent barrier will separate those two space so you know which part of the facility you’re in: the restaurant area or the dispensing area,” Wilson said.

The amended bill also provides five years for restaurants previously exempt from the Zion Curtain law to pick and install one of those three options.

Many restaurateurs spoke in favor of the bill, most supporting it even though they still have some lingering concerns.

“We want to be responsible restaurants and businesses, while also creating a dining experience where our guests can come and enjoy alcohol responsibly,” said Lincoln Shurtz with the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association.

Some conservative groups opposed the bill, including the Family Policy Resource’s Laura Bunker. She said the Zion Curtain is meant to shield children from alcohol and show that it should be treated with caution.

“In contrast,” Bunker told the panel of lawmakers, a ten-foot space or a railing "give children a front-row seat to the alcohol culture and sends a message that alcohol is fun and a normal part of dining.”

The House Business and Labor Committee approved HB 442 with a vote of 13-1. It now moves to the full House for consideration.

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