SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers opted for another round of debate Wednesday over one of the state's quirkiest liquor laws.
In March, a measure to repeal a law requiring some Utah restaurants to block patrons from seeing bartenders mix and pour drinks died in the state Legislature.
Lawmakers revisited the issue Wednesday as they reconvened at the Capitol to look back on the 2013 legislative session and prepare for next year.
"Certainly, we don't want a culture where we're pouring alcohol on every corner. I appreciate that we're a controlled state," said Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, who sponsored the measure to repeal the mandate. But, he said, the state law requiring some Utah restaurants to block patrons from seeing bartenders mix and pour drinks should come down because it hurts some businesses and favors others.
The move to take down the barriers, known as "Zion curtains," stalled after some lawmakers raised concerns that it would lead to a bigger drinking culture in Utah and encourage underage diners to drink. The Senate killed the barrier repeal at the same time it approved other minor amendments to liquor regulations.
Curtain opponents such as Wilcox contend the law hinders tourism and forces restaurant owners to waste money. They also say the law hurts Utah tourism by annoying and inconveniencing visitors.
The barrier rule applies only to restaurants built after 2010. That's because it was part of a compromise lawmakers struck in 2009 when they nixed a requirement for Utah bars to operate as members-only social clubs.
Wilcox, the bill's sponsor, says the law unfairly targets newer Utah restaurants.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, is the Capitol's resident expert on state liquor regulation. The barriers, he said, are an important way for the state to keep restaurants from taking on a bar-like atmosphere. They allow Utah diners wishing to sip alcoholic drinks to do so freely, but also cater to those wishing to avoid drinking culture, he said.
Most Utah residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches abstinence from alcohol.
Other lawmakers Wednesday conceded that they are fuzzy on the state's storied record of liquor regulation that dates back to the 1930's.
The legislature will reconvene for its 2014 legislative session in January.