Utahns react to new liquor laws

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SALT LAKE CITY -- For 40 years, anybody wanting a drink in a Utah bar had to become private club members and pay a fee of $10 or more, and restaurants needed the so-called "Zion Curtain," a glass barrier between diners and drink preparation areas. Thanks to compromise legislation, those days are over.

The package of bills would essentially end the private club era. Now bars will scan IDs of those under 35. The data would be stored on-site for a week, but there would be no central database.

"It is a step forward, without a doubt, which is something we haven't seen in a long time. Usually, we take one step forward and two steps back. This time it's kind of like two steps forward and one step back," said private club owner Mark Livingston.

He continued, "As a tourist coming in, I think that they're going to notice a big difference, if they've been here before."

For restaurants, the bill tears down the Zion Curtain. Now, bartenders would be able to pass a drink across a bar to a customer. New restaurants would need a separate area for mixing drinks, away from the view of diners and children.

"Our No. 1 goal is consistency. The thing that concerns us most is that new restaurants that build will have different rules and regulations than restaurants that are in existence today," said Melva Sine, CEO of the Utah Restaurant Association.

Leaders in the Utah chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving also have some worries. "We are moving from private clubs to open bars. Open bars are very problematic all across this country and are a major source of DUIs," president Art Brown said.

The legislation does increase penalties for drinking and driving: repeat offenders could lose their car.

If the changes are approved by Thursday, they will go into effect July 1.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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