Utah’s Zion Curtain - which prevented children watching barmen prepare alcoholic drinks - to come down

David Millward
Manoli Katsanevas, the chef, and owner of Greek eatery Manoli's stands behind the bar with it's Zion Curtain, - AP

The “Zion Curtain”, a seven-feet, two-inch high barrier in Utah’s restaurants, which prevents drinks being mixed and poured in front of anyone below the age of 21 is coming down.

In a concession to bars, restaurants and drinkers, the Mormon-dominated state has relaxed its stringent liquor laws. The measure was signed into law by Gary Herbert, Utah’s governor.

The change will mean that restaurants will no longer have to keep to keep the bar out of sight of minors.

From the beginning of next year, restaurants will have the option of separating the bar from the eating area with a  10-feet buffer zone from which unaccompanied minors are banned or build a 42-inch high railing.

Wags have dubbed the new drink free space as the “Zion Moat”.

Until the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics drinkers had to pay to become a member of a bar before served alcohol.  

Restaurant bartender Wren Kennedy prepares a drink behind the Zion Curtain, in Salt Lake City Credit: Rick Bowme/AP

The law was changed relaxed but in return for the concession, restaurants were required to erect a small physical barrier between the bar and the rest of the premises.

Then in 2009 Utah changed the law again. raising the height of the barrier and demanding that it was opaque so children could not see drinks being prepared.

However the latest concession has come at a price.

The legislature, where 88 per cent of members are adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon church is officially known, have demanded significant concessions from the hospitality industry.

Restaurants will, like Utah’s bars, have to electronically scan driving licences to verify that those ordering drinks are 21 or older.

Duty on alcohol will also be increased, with the money being used to discourage underage drinking.

Utah was the last state in the union to ratify the amendment ending prohibition, only doing so in 1933. Two years later it established the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to police the draconian legislation.

Even now the state enjoys a monopoly on the sale of wine, spirits and beer stronger than 3.2 per cent - even bringing alcoholic beverages into Utah is banned.

“We are grateful that they have eliminated the need for a barrier,” said Michele Corigliano, executive director of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association.

“The problem with the curtain is that restaurant owners were legally responsible for their bartenders were doing, but could not see what they were doing.”

Hillary Mathews, banqueting manager at the New Yorker restaurant in Salt Lake city,  described the Zion Curtain as  “silly”.

Restaurant bartender Wren Kennedy looks on from behind the Zion Curtain at the bar, in Salt Lake City Credit: Rick Bowmer/AP

She added: “People want to shield their children, but there is nothing wrong with seeing drinks being prepared. It is part of everyday life.

“It’s like parents telling their children not to eat candy, because then when kids do get the chance to eat candy they go berserk.”

Eric Hawkins, spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a bill a guarded welcome.

“Utah has been well served by sound policies in the past and we believe there are many good elements in this bill that will serve the people of Utah going forward.

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