Zion Curtain bill coming later this week

Rep. Brad WilsonHouse Majority Leader Brad Wilson tells UtahPolicy that by the end of this week he hopes to have his alcohol reform bill formally introduced and ready for consideration.

As UtahPolicy readers know, part of that bill will repeal the so-called Zion Curtain, the 7-foot wall that must surround the mixing of drinks and the dispensing of wine and beer – one of the more visible and controversial parts of Utah liquor law.

Like GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and other GOP legislative leaders, Wilson, R-Kaysville, says the wall repeal is actually a small part of the overall liquor reform measure.

He cites more important measures:

  • To better impact the illegal use of alcohol by minors and over-consumption by adults, servers in bars and restaurants will get better training, and both DABC and public safety officers dealing with liquor enforcement will be beefed up.
  • The various categories of liquor licenses will be simplified. There will be only two licenses: a bar license, and a restaurant liquor license, with specialty licenses like hotels and events still available.
  • Non-site sales, like 3.2 percent beer and similar drinks sold in grocery and convenience stores, will be better monitored.

Some stores have begun mixing the areas where beer is sold, having other kinds of nonalcoholic drinks amongst the alcohol drinks – like energy drinks next to the beer.

That will have to end, with patrons clearly seeing a section for beer and separate sections of non-alcoholic drinks.

Wilson told UtahPolicy that a grandmother recently said she bought a root beer drink in a grocery store, away from the regular beer products, and served it to her grandchildren, only to find out that while it was indeed root beer, it also contained alcohol.

“We need to do a better job” with the labeling of such products, and clearly only selling them in a beer/alcohol area of the store, he said.

  • Increase the liability of bars and restaurants with liquor licenses – the so-called Dram Shop laws, whereby a seller of liquor can be held liable if a drunk patron goes on to commit some other crime, like driving drunk or harming or killing someone while driving impaired.

Wilson’s bill itself doesn’t deal directly with changing operations of the DABC board, but he adds perhaps his Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, may add to his bill or carry a companion measure that would reorganize the current citizen advisory council to DABC.

Wilson said his bill is now pushing 150 pages – relatively long by Utah bill-drafting measures – and will contain changes to a number of current DABC laws – besides doing away with the Zion Curtain. A UtahPolicy.com survey found that 70% of Utahns support doing away with the Zion Curtain.