The Latest: Liquor bill to allow open or walled off buffer

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Latest on a proposal to overhaul Utah liquor laws (all times local):

9 15 p.m.

A Utah lawmaker proposing to allow restaurants to remove a barrier known as "Zion Curtains" and instead install a buffer zone around their bars says his proposal will allow restaurants to have a 10 foot open buffer zone of walled-off zone 5 to 6 feet away.

Kaysville Republican Rep. Brad Wilson says his current legislation only calls for a 10 foot open-area buffer around a bar where those under 21 cannot dine. He said Monday night he's planning changes to his proposal that would allow a restaurant instead install a half-wall if they don't want to make a larger buffer area.

Wilson says he's also planning changes to allow some restaurants five years to make changes. That includes restaurants generally older than 2009 that are not required to have a barrier known as a "Zion Curtain."


3:45 p.m.

The Utah-based Mormon church appears supportive of a proposal to overhaul liquor laws in the state.

Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a statement Monday that the bill appears to make "an admirable attempt" to address concerns about underage drinking and alcohol abuse and includes appropriate protections.

The bill, unveiled Monday, allows restaurants to remove a barrier from around the area where they mix and prepare drinks and instead wall off a part of the restaurant around the bar where only those over 21 can sit.

The church, to which a majority of Utah residents and lawmakers belong, plays a make-or-break role in setting state liquor policy. Church officials say alcohol is a moral and public safety issue and in the past, have said Utah's laws are working.


1:10 p.m.

A Utah lawmaker says some restaurants may find it difficult to comply with his proposal requiring a buffer zone around a bar, but he say she hopes to find a way to address their concerns.

Kaysville Republican Rep. Brad Wilson told reporters Monday that he's met with several dozen stakeholders, including restaurant groups, and says his proposal is trying to put all restaurants on equal footing while keeping them from looking like bars.

Utah liquor law currently requires restaurants built after 2009 to prepare drinks behind a barrier, nicknamed "Zion Curtains," as a nod to the state's teetotalling Mormon population.

Wilson's proposal requires all restaurants to choose to build the barrier or instead create a separate, walled-off area were customers over 21 could see drinks being made.

The bill was unveiled Monday and has not yet had a hearing.


11:50 a.m.

A Utah lawmaker is unveiling a proposal overhauling liquor laws and allowing restaurants to get rid of barriers known as "Zion Curtains" but in exchange require a type of buffer zone around bars or areas where drinks are prepared.

The bill was made public Monday but Kaysville Republican Rep. Brad Wilson canceled a news conference to discuss it.

The buffer zones would have to be 10 feet from the rest of the dining room or a waiting area and walled off and be off limit to anyone under 21 years old.

The Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association criticized the plan, warning the buffer zones would be impossible for some small restaurants.

This is the latest attempt to address the controversial partitions that are nicknamed "Zion Curtains" as reference to the state's teetotalling Mormon population.

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