HB 442: Zion Curtains and Moats for Every Restaurant

This Bill passed the Senate 58-10 and the House 53-17. The governor signed this Bill into law.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

Utah’s “Zion Curtain” law compels restaurants to create an opaque barrier between where patrons sit and where alcoholic drinks are mixed. Proponents argue this is beneficial and necessary in order to keep children from seeing said alcohol. Previous reform efforts have stalled, in part because the legislature is unwilling to substantively reform Utah’s alcohol laws without the agreement of the LDS Church, which has supported the “Zion Curtain.”

Yet for all the complaints over this policy, it actually applies only to a minority of restaurants. When the law was passed in 2009, all existing restaurants were grandfathered in and therefore did not have to create the barrier.

That would all change under House Bill 442, sponsored by Representative Brad Wilson, which would eliminate the exemption and compel all restaurants that serve alcohol to choose between either the “Zion Curtain” or a newly established “Zion Moat” which requires “at least 10 feet from any area where alcoholic product is dispensed to the dining area and any waiting area, measured from the point of the area where alcoholic product is dispensed that is closest to the dining area or waiting area.”

In other words, restaurants have to either install a costly barrier to hide the booze or rearrange their interior such that tables are further than 10 feet away from the bar.

The bill also includes a number of other changes, including a 2% increase in the already steep tax imposed upon alcoholic beverages. For example, the tax on spirits goes from 86% to 88%. (If you’re in the military, you’re in luck—the legislature caps the markup to soldiers at a comparatively low 17%.)

Utah’s confusing, arbitrary, and unjust alcohol laws need major reforms, but this bill complicates matters in a negative way. Many restaurants enjoy a freedom under existing law that would be removed, compelling them all to create unnecessary barriers at a significant cost. We oppose this bill.