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In Utah, 'Zion Curtain' Comes Down

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In Utah, 'Zion Curtain' Comes Down

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In Utah, 'Zion Curtain' Comes Down

In Utah, 'Zion Curtain' Comes Down

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Until recently, Utah bartenders could not serve alcoholic drinks to patrons over the bar counter. Instead, bartenders and patrons were separated by a partition called the "Zion Curtain," a reference to the Mormon Church. But under a new law that took effect this week, restaurants can rip out that barrier. Catherine Lauderback, assistant manager at Salt Lake City's Faustina restaurant, offers her insight.


In Utah, the Zion Curtain is being torn down. The Zion Curtain refers to partitions that for nearly 20 years have separated bartenders from patrons at restaurant counters. That nickname, Zion Curtain, is a reference to Utah as the Mormon Zion, and it alludes to the Mormon influence over the state's liquor laws. Well this week, under a new law, restaurants can rip out that barrier.

And the curtain has already fallen at Faustina, that's a restaurant in Salt Lake City, where Catherine Lauderback is assistant manager. I asked her if it was a big production to take down the Zion Curtain.

Ms. CATHERINE LAUDERBACK (Assistant Manager, Faustina Restaurant): Oh, it wasn't anything at all. You just, we just slid the glass right out and then took down the little bars that were holding it up.

BLOCK: Well, what was your partition like?

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Similar to, like, a sushi - where you go sit at the sushi bar. You know, a glass shield between yourself and the fish.

BLOCK: You could see through it?


BLOCK: Okay, so here's what I don't understand. I think the idea was…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAUDERBACK: I'm sure you don't.

(Soundbite of Laughter)

BLOCK: Okay.

Ms. LAUDERBACK: I don't either.

BLOCK: You don't understand it either. But the idea, I think, behind the law was to prevent people from seeing drinks being made?

Ms. LAUDERBACK: This is correct. It was illegal for there to be any view of wine or any type of alcoholic beverage.

BLOCK: So it's - the idea was you couldn't see drinks being made.

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Yeah, they didn't want there to be the temptation.

BLOCK: But in your case, partition was glass, so you could see everything.

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Yeah, it was all wishy-washy. This has been very strange.

BLOCK: Well how did it work with that partition in place? What did the bartender have to do?

Ms. LAUDERBACK: We would have to walk around, like exit the bar and walk around to the front of the bar, and serve the drink that way.

BLOCK: That make your life a little difficult?

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Yeah, it was quite frustrating. It inhibited service time. It was always a conversation piece, especially for tourists, which you get a lot of.

BLOCK: People coming in and saying what's with the partition?

Ms. LAUDERBACK: What is this? Is this a spit guard? Like, why is this here?

BLOCK: Was there any kind of celebration when the Zion Curtain came down at Faustina?

Ms. LAUDERBACK: I wasn't personally here that night, but we were definitely excited when we came in the morning, just by how much different it looked and it seems like a lot more open space. And the first time I was able to serve a drink right over the bar was strangely new.

BLOCK: Kind of liberating?

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Yeah, kind of liberating.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Catherine, do you think anybody is upset about this, really, actually liked the partition and was sad to see it go?

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Oh, absolutely not. I think even, you know, the culture here that - restricting alcohol consumption, I think they're kind of relieved, because it's just illogical. It makes being a bartender on a busy night quite lacking of time efficiency.

BLOCK: Got a little exercise, though.

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Oh, yeah. Yeah, people are making jokes, well, you might gain 10 pounds now that the wall's gone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: The down side.

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Yeah. Thank you very much.

BLOCK: You have some customers leaving just…

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Yes, yes I do. Have a nice afternoon.

BLOCK: Well, Catherine, it sounds like you've got a busy day there. We're going to let you go. Thanks so much.

Ms. LAUDERBACK: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: That's Catherine Lauderback, assistant manager at Faustina restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah. The restaurant just took down its Zion Curtain.

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