Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Utah looks to liberalize serving laws. To a point.

Some of us discovered yesterday that we’d failed to set our clocks ahead over the weekend, leaving us an hour behind everyone else. In Utah, lawmakers must’ve looked at their calendars and realized their gap was more like a century. They agreed to catch up, more or less, by updating liquor-serving laws that had stigmatized their restaurants as the Amish of foodservice.

Under an accord that was hammered out as a way to boost tourism, no longer will someone in the state have to join a “club,” with minimum annual dues of $12, if they wanted a drink with dinner. Nor will restaurants be required anymore to separate patrons from the bartender by a screens, known as Zion curtains, or a 10-foot wall, as one lawmaker had urged. A bartender could pour a drink and hand it to the patron, a quantum leap from where the heavily Mormon state had been in its attitude toward drink sales.

But reason didn’t totally prevail, not by a long shot. Patrons are to be carded until age 35. The proof of age is not only checked, but scanned or otherwise captured by the serving establishment and kept for a week, a probable spoiler for anyone concerned about identity theft.

And the 10-foot-wall requirement wasn’t scuttled, just narrowed in its focus. New restaurants will have to include the partition, so children can’t see drinks being mixed or poured, and existing places would be required to add one if they renovate.

The compromise measure has yet to be put to a vote, but proponents and opponents agree that it will likely be passed, and quickly. If passed, the new law would go into effect in mid-May.

No comments: