2014 Bills

HB285: Tearing Down the Zion Curtain, and Removing the “Intent to Dine” Requirement

After passing out of committee successfully, this bill was not heard by the House. Visit our Legislative Index to see the final vote rankings for the 2014 general session.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

A new bill by Representative Kraig Powell aims to repeal certain alcohol laws in Utah that have received a great deal of (almost entirely negative) attention nationwide. House Bill 285 would remove the requirement that restaurant patrons must first explicitly state their intent to consume food before being served an alcoholic beverage. In addition, it would repeal the requirement that certain restaurants must erect a “solid, translucent, permanent structural barrier” behind which alcoholic drinks must be mixed.

As highlighted in an interview we conducted with a Utah restaurant owner, these types of mandates impose an unreasonable financial burden on many business owners yet fail to have any supporting data showing that the mandates actually accomplish what they claim. In the case of the Zion Curtain, supporters of the law believe that shielding children from the sight of an alcoholic beverage will minimize the temptation and allurement that seeing it might create. No data bears out this assertion. Despite passing overwhelmingly in the House last year, Senator John Valentine successfully led an effort to gut a repeal of the “Zion Curtain” in House Bill 228.

Similarly, the “intent to dine” provision of the law forces a silly procedure upon servers in which they must ensure in each initial interaction with patrons who request an alcoholic beverage that they will also be consuming food during their visit. A bill to repeal this requirement passed in the House last year 60-8 but was not considered in the Senate.

The chance of success for Rep. Powell’s bill was potentially endangered just days ago when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the predominant faith in the state of Utah—released a lengthy statement expressing support for the current laws and admonishing Utahns to resist changing the status quo.

Because we support free enterprise, we support this bill. Of course, we do not desire to see children enticed by alcohol nor do we want a “culture of alcohol” to become prevalent in the state. We believe, however, that these ideals we share with many conservatives should be attained through persuasion and the market—not through silly mandates that violate property rights and impose unreasonable constraints upon consensual commercial relationships between a business owner and his patrons.