Flagged Bill: HB 339 – Alcoholic Beverage Service Amendments – Rep. Kraig Powell

Representative Kraig Powell (Republican - Heber)
Representative Kraig Powell (Republican – Heber)

Representative Kraig Powell (Republican – Heber) has not been one to shy away from the Zion Curtain debate. Last year, Powell advanced legislation that would have effectively torn down the the barrier between those preparing alcoholic beverages and those consuming those beverages in restaurant settings.

That legislation would advance out of committee by an extremely tight 8-7 vote before dying on the House floor.

This year, Powell is hoping to make it even further with upgraded legislation that tears down the Zion Curtain and creates a Zion Notice in its place.

HB 339 – Alcoholic Beverage Service Amendments would return the state to its pre- Zion Curtain days by formally stating that “a full-service restaurant [liquor] licensee is not required to have a separate storage or dispensing area.” The catch, however, is that a conspicuous sign must be displayed that says “Notice: This establishment prepares and dispenses alcoholic products in public view.”

It seems odd to state that a sign telling people that a bar serves alcohol is a step forward in Utah alcohol policy, but that just speaks to how backward the Zion Curtain truly is.

From an outsiders perspective, the Zion Curtain is the most symbolic monument the state could erect to show how out of touch it is with the rest of the nation. From an internal perspective, casual drinkers (as the ones who would order a drink at a family restaurant generally are) are reminded of just how out of touch policy makers are when it comes to alcohol policy.

The annoyance of the Zion Curtain is that, one isn’t certain that the drink that is being prepared contains the alcohol being requested – increasing the possibility of cheating and theft. The fear of the Zion Curtain is that someone doesn’t see their drink being prepared, increasing the odds of a drink being drugged.

Some have argued that the existence of Zion Curtains somehow protects children from the allure of alcohol – however this argument ignores both a parent’s ability to parent and the LDS culture that generally drives down underage drinking rates. Parents who don’t ask what their children are doing and who they are doing it with will create kids more likely to drink – kids seeing a Long Island Iced Tea being served at a Chili’s will promptly return to their Diet Coke. It is the taboo that makes it appealing, not the preparation.

There is no proof that the Zion Curtain is effective at preventing underage drinking (the primary argument for curtains) – but there is proof that Zion Curtains cost money and make Utah look even more backwards to the national and international community.

The status quo of no Zion Curtains worked fine, however, based on the response Powell received last year, it is clear that there is no political will to return to the pre Zion Curtain days. A sign, as silly as it may be in holistic terms, is a more reasonable accommodation that allows parents to make a decision before sitting down at a restaurant with their family while simultaneously posing little financial burden on businesses.

Nationally, Powell’s bill would be absurd…but in Utah it is a reasonable compromise that should pass.

To contact Representative Powell, click here or call 435-654-5986.

You can track this, and all of our other flagged bills, by clicking here. Need an explanation of scores? Click Here.

Impact on Average Utahn 0-1-2-3-4-5
Need for Legislation 0-1-2-3-4-5
Lemon Score 0-1-2-3-4-5
Overall Grade A

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