Life Behind the Zion Curtain - Would Passing the Zion Curtain Law Cut Back on Underage Drinking?

Life Behind the Zion Curtain - Would Passing the Zion Curtain Law Cut Back on Underage Drinking?

Picture this: a three-foot tall pane of frosted glass obstructing your view of your bartender while he/she makes your drink. You are not allowed to see the alcohol behind the counter, nor the drink being made. In order to get your drink, your bartender has to walk around the bar to personally hand you your drink. That is what bartenders in Utah’s restaurants are obligated to do. A new law requires all establishments that serve alcohol behind the frosted glass, dubbed by the media as the “Zion Curtain,” after the Mormon Legislature that put the law into effect. There has been a heated debate on the effectiveness of the Zion Curtain.

The reason behind the Zion Curtain is to cut down on underage drinking, but does it really work? Researchers from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation find that it is more likely that if a teen’s parents or peers drink, they will be more inclined to do the same. But they have not found a connection between underage drinkers and bartenders mixing drinks.

Whatever effect the Zion Curtain has on minors may not outweigh the massive influence the media has. Alcohol advertising on television has more than tripled between 2001 and 2009, according to the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. With all the advertising of alcoholic beverages that social multimedia spews out, how much of an affect can a pane of frosted glass be? Are teens really affected by the mere sight of alcohol? According to Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, the legislator who came up with the law, that is the basic concept behind the Zion Curtain.

One of the major complaints of the frosted glass is that it is only required for new restaurants. Not only is it not fair to the newer establishments, it loses its effectiveness if it’s not instated in every restaurant that sells liquor. It loses business and makes for slower service. This is not the first time the Zion Curtain has been instated. Bartenders hiding in restaurants got their start more than forty years ago. Since the late 1960s, there has been several attempts at hiding liquor from patrons. Separate back rooms for mixing and serving drinks, minibottles of alcoholic beverages, and a ban on over the counter drink mixing and/or serving. During the 2002 Olympics, restaurants serving drinks in the back and hand-delivering it to the customer – both wine and water alike – were the laughingstock of tourists from all over.

From the guests’ perspective a, the Zion Curtain could be either a good or a bad concept. On one side of the coin, the Zion Curtain is a welcome sight. The Utah chapter of the Mothers’ Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is cheering the bill on. Art Brown, who leads the Utah chapter of MADD believes that restaurants serving alcohol in front of adolescents “can be interpreted as putting the kids in a bar environment at a time when they may be more partial to start underage drinking” (House).

To others, the Zion Curtain is a joke. It could be embarrassing for the customer to order a drink and go through all the hassle. It also takes that art out of making a drink. Most customers like to see their drink being made. How likely is a guest going to order drinks if they cannot see what is on stock? Out of sight out of mind. The front of house staff loses the money being made on selling after dinner drinks. It’s easier to persuade someone to buy something when it is staring them down.

It also hurt the setup of the establishment. It’s harder for customers to see their servers. Customers will also be less inclined to sit at the bar so there are some place settings lost. The bar becomes an obstacle in the restaurant. Where seat could have been, there is a curtain of glass instead. The glass may also look intimidating to guests when entering the restaurant. Visitors from outside the state may not understand the Zion Curtain and could decide to not visit the restaurant simply because there is an daunting pane of glass hiding their view.

Works Cited
House, Dawn. “No research exists on effectiveness of Utah’s ‘Zion Curtain.’" Salt Lake Tribune Sep 28, 2011: Print.
“Youth Exposure to Alcohol Ads on TV Growing Faster than Adults." Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, n.d. Web. December 13, 2010.
“MLA Formatting and Style Guide." Purdue Online Writing Lab, n.d. Web.