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Utah Relaxes Restrictions on Restaurants Serving Alcohol

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Patrons can now actually watch their cocktails being made

A bartender pours a cocktail from one shaker to another. Franklin Heijnen/Flickr

Good news for booze enthusiasts in Utah: One of the most burdensome of the state’s many restrictive liquor laws was just relaxed, meaning bartenders at restaurants will no longer need to be hidden from view.

Last Friday Utah implemented a new law that allows for the removal of so-called “Zion curtains,” physical barriers separating restaurants’ bars from their dining rooms that are intended to prevent restaurant patrons from seeing alcohol being poured. The Salt Like Tribune reports dozens of restaurants wasted no time in tearing down their walls, which aim to curb underage drinking by shielding minors from alcohol culture. (Utah’s own governor has questioned the validity of that theory.)

At Salt Lake City restaurant Current Fish & Oyster, staff celebrated by literally smashing the glass pane that separated its bar from the rest of the restaurant and then pouring a Champagne toast:

Bye bye Zion Curtain!

‎Posted by Heather King on‎ שבת 1 יולי 2017

But even following the teardown of Zion curtains, Utah has plenty more restrictive alcohol laws that will remain in place as obstacles for restaurateurs (and drinkers): Most beer cannot contain more than 3.2 percent alcohol by volume, for example, and there are strict limits on the amount of booze a drink can contain (and it must be strictly measured — “free-pouring” is prohibited). More than half of the state’s residents identify as Mormon, a religion that condemns the consumption of substances such as alcohol and caffeine.

Under the new guidelines, the Tribune explains, restaurants that want to rid themselves of the Zion curtain can instead “create a 10-foot buffer from the bar where minors are not allowed; or build a half-wall or railing that creates a delineation between the dining and liquor-dispensing areas.” Several dozen more restaurants have already applied to the state liquor board to remove their own walls.

While such cumbersome restrictions haven’t completely stifled the state’s cocktail scene, they have certainly limited it — but the removal of the so-called Zion curtains marks a major step forward for restaurateurs, bartenders, and drinkers alike.

‘Zion Curtain,’ Begone [Salt Lake Tribune]
Utah Restaurateurs Urge State to Nix Burdensome Liquor Laws [E]