Too hot for Utah?

Too tempting for Utah?

If you want to get a drink at a bar in Utah, you are required by law to fill out a membership application, and pay a fee for the right to enter the “private club”.  By making it more difficult to walk through the door, the state believes they are preventing under-age and casual drinking.  But boy does this prevent the tourists from coming in (as well as their dollars).  So what do we do, O wise legislators?  How do we make our businesses more accessible but still maintain the moral high ground?

Well, three cheers for Senator John Valentine, who has proposed a bill (gaining some traction, mind you) to eliminate this requirement and, instead, erect a ten-foot wall in bars and restaurants from behind which the bartender must hide his or her bottles and make their drinks out of sight to protect children from the temptation of drinks being mixed before their eyes.  Called the “Zion Curtain”, Senator Valentine has shot straight to the heart of our kids’ desire to drink, and by removing all shiny bottles and bartender showmanship from the eye of the beholder, young Utahans will therefore be encouraged to drink less.


What a plan!  What a genius!  Strip all drama and aesthetic style from your bars and turn them into mere feeding stations for destitute human wastoids to pull up and receive their medicine from a slot in the wall!  A speakeasy without the bar…. you walk up to the door, the panel slides open, an unfriendly voices yells “what ya want, loser?” (because obviously any sense of hospitality in the service itself only encourages you to drink more), and a vile-looking, black, thick liquid is handed back in a paper cup (to obviously discourage kids from finding any sort of wonderment in the glassware itself). Food coloring, a gelatin thickening agent and a sulfur pill are further added to strip the drinks of any textural, visual or aromatic enjoyment.  Why not make the atmosphere more like a dental office?  You’ll receive your dose of alcohol, miscreant, but it will be through a dental dam.  How about fast food required to be ingested rectally?  Wow.  The possibilities are endless.

Now I’ve been to Utah numerous times, and I must say the natural beauty of a place like Arches National Park is stunning; in fact, it was some of my favorite camping ever (and I’ve CAMPED, mothafuckas).  But when I walked into a liquor store that’s when I saw what was morally going on behind-the-scenes of all this beauty.  Every step of purchasing a six-pack of beer had been meticulously designed to not only discourage me from popping the top on that tall boy as soon as I climbed back into my big rig, but to discourage me from ever wanting to step foot in one again.


I present my case:  no refrigerators were allowed by law in the store, so all beer was sold warm.  Bottles were not grouped into six-packs, but instead, shelved as single bottles and priced as such.  So, if you wanted a six-pack, you had to grab a cardboard sleeve, head to the limited wall of warm, devil juice and put the six bottles into the pack by yourself!  That’s right, kids, it almost didn’t seem worth it!  The inconvenience of actually having to slip the bottles into the sleeve was infuriating.  My wrist was nearly giving out on me and I was breaking a sweat!  Ugghh.  I was so discouraged.  And when I went to pay, they were not only rang up individually, but they were so frickin overpriced it was astounding.  For a pack of Bud (and this was ten years ago mind you) we paid $11–factored through my internal inflation calculator, this would be $232 in today’s world.

And then, to add insult to injury, as we were driving away, my buddy noticed that the beer was 3.2% alcohol (in fact NO beer sold in Utah could be more than this).  So, yeah, it was basically a 6-pack of domestic, de-alcoholed, warm beer for double what you’d pay anywhere else.  Discouraging?  Yeah, it sucked.  But at least I didn’t have to drink it while staring at a ten-foot wall.


8 Responses to “The Zion Curtain: the Future of Bar Technology”

  1. The art of the bartender being relegated to behind a 10-foot wall? Oh Utah, what is wrong with you?

  2. Alexis says:

    Utah is a long way from Alabama. We stopped at a gas station store on our drive back from the Gulf Shores, and they had cans of beer ON ICE, visible as soon as you walked in. A whole slew of them, all different kinds, some cans priced as low as 60 cents, sitting in ice in these huge tubs the size of those above groud pools, chilled to perfection. Those cans were not meant to be drunk at home if you know what I mean. Is it still illegal to drink and drive?

  3. David, I just discovered your blog and have enjoyed it. Commenting on the Zion post, I hope you know this has all changed and its time you return to Utah! Private clubs are eliminated, you CAN buy full strength beer here, and most importantly, Utah now has the world’s only ski-in distillery. A gastro-distillery actually. Its my place and called High West Distillery. I hope one day you’ll visit. If you are a whiskey fan I hope you get to try our stuff too (actually in NYC in a few spots).
    David Perkins

  4. This is awesome news, David, thanks for the update. Welcome to the 21st century, Utah. (Although I’ll have to see it to believe it!)

    That being said, it’s certainly time for me to start planning a whiskey/ski trip. I’ll have to look for your whiskey. May be a nice fit at our restaurant.

    Best, David

  5. erin s says:

    love high west! was there a couple of weeks ago, and it’s great that utah loosened the laws a bit, allowing this great whiskey into my life :) and great food, too!

  6. Right on, Erin. Glad to hear it. I need to get back for some “researching”.

  7. Mike Wells says:

    //”And then, to add insult to injury, as we were driving away, my buddy noticed that the beer was 3.2% alcohol (in fact NO beer sold in Utah could be more than this). “//

    Sorry David, you are completely and totally wrong on this (At least 400% wrong… 😉 ).

    No beer on tap can be more than 3.2%, and no beer sold in a grocery store can be more than 3.2%, but bars CAN sell stronger beers, and you CAN buy them at the State Liquor Store. This creates a problem for the business, because they have to basically sell the beer to the state, and then buy it back, passing the “savings” on to the customer, but you can still buy stronger beer.

    Case in point: Squatter’s Brewery has a wonderful IPA called ‘Hop Rising’. In a normal state, I would go to the brewery and buy a pint of this for between $4 and $5, maybe even less… Here, I think it’s $6 or $6.50 for a 12 ounce bottle because of this, but like I said, I CAN stil purchase it.

  8. Mike, I appreciate the boots-on-the-ground update. Admittedly, the last time I stepped foot in Utah, I had barely scratched puberty, so I’m pretty removed from the scene. I need to get myself back there to load up on the new microbreweries and head into Arches National Park for some r&r.

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