Winery Fights Utah's Laughably Awful 'Zion Curtain' Rule

The law requires blocking the view of alcohol being mixed or poured.


Hive Winery
The Hive Winery

Since 2010, The Hive Winery, in Layton, Utah, has used local fruits and honey to create its award-winning fruit wines.

The Hive has also demonstrated a unique penchant for stinging the powers that be.

In a state where Mormonism dominates, The Hive produces two cherry wines, the polygamy-themed "SisterWives" and "Bishop's Daughter," the label of which shows a topless, tattooed blonde woman in a tub above an entreaty to "give this cherry a try!"

Recently, the winery decided to take on Utah's Zion curtain, a mandatory "7-foot-2-inch opaque barrier that newer restaurants must have in bar areas so children [and anyone shorter than Greg Ostertag or Mark Eaton] can't see alcoholic beverages being mixed or poured."

The Zion curtain, which gets its name from Mormon scripture, "forces many restaurants to erect physical barriers between customers and bartenders," I wrote last year. "The reasoning? Elected officials in Utah fear that 'letting the public see drinks being prepared would lead to more alcohol sales and more alcohol consumption.'"

In an act reminiscent of anti-communist graffiti painted on the Berlin Wall, Jay Yahne, who owns The Hive, has turned the tool of state oppression, his winery's unwelcome Zion curtain, into a canvas for bold protest against that oppression. In large type, the message on Hive Winery's Zion curtain says Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is "Doing As Bishop Commands," a reference to what he sees as the church's entanglement with the state.

Yahne told Salt Lake City's Fox affiliate that ""those in Utah who don't believe the Mormon church controls what is done in Utah… are naive."

The winery also uses the space to promote one of its own wines, the aptly named "Zion Curtain." Yahne says he's simply exercising his First Amendment right. The alcohol control folks haven't yet challenged that right (at least as pertains to Yahne's protest).

The Zion curtain has been controversial since it was adopted last decade. Polls have shown Mormon and non-Morman Utahns alike oppose the Zion curtain. A bill that would have torn down the curtains, sponsored by Utah State Sen. Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City), which he's labeled "weird," "awkward," "annoying," and "miserable," failed to pass this year.  (I agree with Dabakis, though I've preferred "sheer idiocy.") Instead, lawmakers will "study" the issue. Previous efforts to rescind the 2009 law have also fallen short.

Mormon Church leaders, who don't imbibe, perhaps not surprisingly, don't see the Zion curtain as a big deal for those who do.

"How important is it to see your drink being made?" asks a 2014 Mormon Church video defending the Zion curtain. "Does it really matter, as long as you get what you ordered?" Left unsaid, of course, is that the only way to see if you've gotten exactly what you ordered—to determine whether you're the person who took your top-shelf order instead poured you from the rail—is to see it being made.

"It's an absurd law and I'm glad to see the winery protesting it," said Jacob Grier, the author of Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer, who also tends bar in Portland, Oregon, and is a frequent Reason contributor.

"Watching cocktails being prepared is a point of interest for drinkers, and more importantly, it's a spur to education. I've had countless conversations with guests that begin with them asking what I'm making or what's in a bottle they've never seen before. Those interactions encourage them to widen their horizons and try new things."

This is an important point that appears largely to have been lost so far in debates over the Zion curtain. Beyond legitimate concerns that the person pouring your drink could either be shorting you (by pouring you a lesser tipple than you paid for) or hurting you (by adding something harmful into your drink), the Zion curtain harms the art and aesthetics of crafting a drink. And in so doing it restricts the free expression rights of bartenders and drinkers alike. 

But does the law make Utahns safer? 

The Mormon Church bases its arguments in favor of the law largely on figures it says show that Utah has both strict alcohol laws and the lowest number of traffic-related alcohol deaths per capita in the United States. But that's a cherry-picking non sequitur. In fact, according to CDC data, Utah's percentage of alcohol-attributable deaths, 3.7 percent (from acute causes, including traffic deaths, and chronic causes, including alcoholic liver disease), ranks above the national average of 3.6 percent. In this important measure, Utah ranks behind New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Iowa, West Virginia, Nebraska, Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and other states.

That may be because, as I've noted, previously, the Zion curtain and other strict alcohol laws in the state encourage people who might have opened a restaurant to instead open a bar.

"The expensive and impersonal Zion curtain is pushing more Utah restaurants to convert into bars, which are not subject to the rule," I wrote in a 2015 report for the Institute for Justice. "That means a law intended to crack down on alcohol sales and consumption is responsible for creating more establishments devoted to drinking alcohol."

Utah's Zion curtain is one of America's worst and most ineffective food laws. This weekend, please join me in toasting The Hive Winery, Utah State Sen. Jim Dabakis, and others who are fighting the law.

NEXT: How Privatization and Competition Freed the Web and Made the Modern World Possible

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  1. Did the Elders approve this Zion law?

  2. What do yo expect? L. Ron Hubbard probably has Smith beat, though. My favorite part of the story is Joseph Smith losing the translation, and then temporarily “losing” his ability to translate from the golden plates a second time because God was angry.

    “The faith drew its first converts while Smith was dictating the text of the Book of Mormon from golden plates which had reformed Egyptian writing on them which he said he found buried after being directed to their location by the Angel Moroni.”

    1. Dum,dum,dum,dum dum

      1. This is what Mormons actually believe. Dum, dum, dum dum.

    2. God formed the world from his belly button lint. Muhammed flew to heaven on a winged horse. Jesus walked on water and raised the dead. Aliens are coming in a giant spaceship to evacuate the righteous. 75 million years ago, there was an alien galactic ruler named Xenu who was in charge of 76 planets in our sector of the galaxy, including planet Earth, whose name at that time was Teegeeack.

      Every cult leader spouts absurd shit. It is to make sure the real followers have completely suspended their disbelief and thus will do anything they are told. It is why dictators spout the same kind of absurdities. It is about control.

      It is a waste of time to point these absurdities out to the true believers. Like schizophrenics they have a million reasons to explain away your critique.

      1. My favorite experience with regards to this was a friend of mine who tried to convert me. After several days he finally declared “I agree with every argument you have made. Every one of them is correct, but I cant accept the conclusion they lead to. No matter what you say or how right you are I will not lose my faith.”

        1. My sister and I had a discussion like this. She lobbed an apparent killlshot question at me: “Let me ask you: is it possible you could be wrong about what you believe?”

          Without the slightest pause, I responded, “Of course I could. Could you?”

          She turned this over in her head a few times before answering. “No.”

          And there you have it.

          1. Yeeeep. Perfect. I laughed at that one.

          2. Serious question: are there no things you accept on faith? Nothing in the world?

            Until you can say you don’t believe anything that cannot constantly be proven and that you personally understand the methodology and conclusions reached, then you’re the same as the Christians you guys like to mock so much on here for being so gullible. Because the alternative is to accept the wisdom of others and accept their words…on faith.

            1. There’s a huge difference between the provability of 2 + 2 = 4 vs walking on water as claimed in a book written hundreds of years after the “fact”.

              1. That’s not what I was really referring to. Can you prove everything you accept as true? Can you understand the methodology others use to prove things you accept as true?

                Because if your answer to either is “no”, then welcome too the wonderful world of faith.

                1. My faith in your quickness to cop out is renewed by experience.

                2. Sloopy, I didn’t realize you were Mac

              2. I don’t think even the Jesus Seminar debunkers claim the Gospels were written “hundreds of years after the fact.”

                1. “Hundreds” might be a slight exaggeration, but they were written well after the fact.

            2. The sloopster’s dead nuts on. We all take lots and lots of things on faith, that is, we cruise on assumptions much more than we realize. That’s the nature of assumptions – they operate in the background.

              Just about anything that you believe because you read about it is something you take on faith. Sure, what you read may have referred to evidence, but that just removes the object of faith by a step or two.

            3. Sloopy – I dont mock christians. I have great respect for christianity despite my not believing in the magical tenants of it.

              The world would be a much worse place without it.

              As for your question about taking things on faith, I only take something on faith if I am confident that I can confirm it. In the past I have attempted to confirm some of those things and sometimes been successful and sometimes discovered I was wrong.

              I don’t take religion on faith precisely because it cannot be confirmed. Don’t take that to mean that I would deny anyone their beliefs. Your conscience is your own.

              1. Thanks for your courteous and well-considered reply, Suthenboy. It’s what I expect from you.

                I don’t get Scarecrow’s reply to an honest question. Didn’t know I had a reputation for copping out on here. But at least he acknowledged that he has faith in something.

              2. People who believe there is no God have faith that there isn’t because they damn sure can’t prove it.

            4. i believe (there it is, faith) that if I do the same experiment 10 times in a row, and fully understand the experiment that I am actually running, I will get the same response 10 times in a row. I believe that with enough time and effort and money, I could reproduce any of the great tested findings of science. Yes, I believe I can accept the wisdom of others and their words, provided they too rely on demonstrateable, reproducible tests. I will even accept their hypotheses, subject to future possible revision.

              What I can not accept is something that must not be questioned or measured. And, I’m ok with saying “I don’t know”.

              But, in the spirit of libertarianism, if you want to believe in something, fine, but please don’t require that I believe in it, or support it. I would of course be happy to treat you in the same manner. We might even be friends.

        2. “I cant accept the conclusion they lead to. No matter what you say or how right you are I will not lose my faith.”

          Whatever else religion is, it’s also an evolutionary adaptation. It’s a social adaptation, but so is language. Indications are that learning to speak changed the size and physiology of our brains. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something like that going on with religion.

          No culture survived into the historic record without religion. Every culture had marriage, too, and religious ceremonies attached to marriage. Getting people to abandon religion because of logic and reason may be like getting them to abandon their tonsils or their appendix. Maybe we don’t need them anymore, but unless something goes wrong with them, there’s no reason to cut them out.

          And some people build their self-esteem around the respect of their religious family members and the idea that the creator of the universe sacrificed himself for them. They treat other people well and respect their rights for the same reasons, too. If Jesus died for this person, who am I to mistreat him?

          Expecting people to abandon such beliefs entirely for no obvious gain is probably irrational. If only you alienated your family and destroyed a source of self-esteem, then you’d be . . . what? Happy? “With much wisdom comes much grief” is in the bible. That Mormon kid said pretty much the same thing at the end of that South Park episode; he just added, “Bite my balls”.

          1. Most people do seem to have some hard-wired need for some sort of faith. Probably the best we can do is try to encourage the less-harmful varieties. Attempts to stamp out religion in favor of something more “rational” tend not to work out well. See, for example, the French Revolution and the Soviet Union. Attempts to make rationalism or Marxism the official faith just proved that religion without god can be at least as bloody as the more traditional kind.

            1. “Expecting people to abandon such beliefs entirely for no obvious gain is probably irrational.”

              “Attempts to stamp out religion in favor of something more “rational” tend not to work out well. ”

              I won’t say I was never guilty of it but a couple of decades ago I saw the error of my ways. People who do those things are nearly always insufferable pricks. Yeah…I know.

            2. The fact is that we all have to take some things on faith.

              My significant other says she loves me. I’ve seen her behavior and notice if it’s been consistent with that belief in the past, but when I make decisions today that assume she’ll be true in the future. I take it on faith. If she gives up her job to move with me to San Diego, how can she know that I’ll be true?

              How do you know your business partner won’t betray you?

              Faith is about what we choose to believe in the face of uncertainty. Being able to make smart choices about that is probably a useful thing since the most important decisions we make are typically made in the face of uncertainty.

              Faith that ignores uncertainty is a bad thing and fundamentally irrational. Religious people can be susceptible to that. But it’s irrational when atheists ignores uncertainty and cite a scientist or something, too. That’s called an appeal to authority fallacy. It’s irrational when God is incorrectly put forward as an authority without question, and it’s irrational to put forward a scientist or Barack Obama as the cure for uncertainty, too.

              1. To me, religion is like taboos, which are also evolutionary adaptations. The closer you get to the equator, the more of a taboo there is against having sex before the mother’s last child turns one. It has to do with lactation, making sure the last baby gets enough to eat, but that isn’t the way it’s rationalized. It’s fear of some spirit or bad luck–the rationale varies between Central American cultures, African cultures at the equator, Cultures in the Pacific. They all have their own rationalizations based on their local religions and traditions, but all of them have adapted to ensure that maximum survival rate for babies born in the tropics, where protein is hard to come by.

                That’s religion. In addition to whatever else it is, it’s also adaptive. And rationalizing adaptations away is missing the point.

      2. “It is a waste of time to point these absurdities out to the true believers. Like schizophrenics they have a million reasons to explain away your critique.”

        But despite Jesus walking on water, burning bushes, water turning into wine, etc. I consider Scientologists insane. Why? Because they were warned beforehand. By their founder!

        “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”

        1. My son, who is only 25, has a pretty successful business. He is very smart and very ambitious.

          He told me he is amazed by how easy it is to get people to give him money, how gullible they are. Then he joked that he should start his own religion and get really rich. I am pretty sure he was only half joking.

          I am starting to worry.

          1. And just think, some of those gullible people don’t believe in God.


          2. Just make sure his religion has something about young women honoring his father.

            1. You could join my church. We have 52 saints so you are guaranteed a 3-day weekend all year.

              We don’t have many rules. About the only one we are real firm on is tithing. Of course, some people like to tithe a bit more to help us defray the costs of beatifying some new saint who will be honored next week just about the time they wanted that 4-day road trip.

          3. Suthen, you’re worried your son is going to get really rich?

            1. Cult leaders all have weird hair. I don’t want my son to have weird hair.

  3. Why doesn’t somebody just suggest that alcohol is being slipped into non-alcoholic drinks, all veiled by this horrible zion curtain, and then just allow popular outrage to demand the law be changed to require that all drinks be prepared in full view of customers? This is a law that for practical purposes could be fixed by a 4 minute local news shock piece and a well placed newspaper editorial.

    1. Will someone please blame the children?

    2. Beautiful.

    3. Great idea!

  4. I go to Utah a lot. Take a motorcycle trip there every summer at least. I love Utah. It’s an incredibly free state in a number of great ways. For instance, their gun laws are fantastic and you don’t have to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. One of the highways I tale has a speed limit of 80 mph.

    The thing that drives me and a lot of other people crazy isn’t a law exactly; it’s more like an unwritten rule. There are very few places to buy alcohol for carry out in Utah, but in all the places you can–you’ll find that the beer selection all comes in bottles that require a bottle opener–and the place that sells beer doesn’t sell bottle openers.

    Out for a long day of hiking in Zion National Park and want a cold beer afterwards? You better plan ahead. 1) The beer they sell for takeout in six packs isn’t cold, and if you didn’t bring a bottle opener with you, you’re gonna be sad and lonely. I don’t believe there’s a law about such things–but it seems to be the same all over the state.

    1. I think the Mormon sheriffs have just gotten together. When you go to get you conditional use permit to sell alcohol renewed and/or your liquor license, the sheriff can show up and make public comments like everyone else. It’s just that his word carries a lot of weight, and if he says your liquor sales present a danger to the public, chances are the city council will vote against you. So if you don’t want him to day that, here’s what you gotta do:

      1) No cold beer for take out.

      2) In bottles that require bottle openers

      3) No bottle opener sales.

      Apparently, they just don’t want you drinking alcohol on the drive home.

      But if you want to carry a 1911, I don’t think you need a permit for that–open carry or concealed.

      1. Is it really that hard to get a bottle opener that fits on a keychain? I’ve had the same bottle opener for about a decade. Plus just about every multi-tool ever made comes with a bottle opener.

        1. Most people never even think about it.

          I’m not the only one. It’s a popular topic of conversation.

          A lot of people only drink beer on vacation.

          And don’t let your boss see your key chain.

          P.S. Growing up in a dorm, you learn important skills, like how to use belt buckles and drawer handles as bottle openers.

          1. Car door frames as well.

            1. Hell, just about any sufficiently hard countertop or comparable right angle will do the job. I’ve opened beer bottles with pliers, screwdrivers, knives (the dull side), probably too many things to even remember.

              1. I can open a bottle with a lighter

                1. Give me an aluminum beer-can or soft drink can, and a sharp object, and I can make you a very excellent smoking implement… Let’s get stoned!

          2. One of several reasons I keep an old-fashioned skeleton key on my keychain.

      2. Having been to Utah many times on business and for pleasure, I can say there were a boatload of places I went in downtown SLC where there were no barriers. I’ve also bought plenty of cold beer there from carry outs.

        Our experiences must have been different.

        1. Yeah, when I go to Utah, I avoid the big city. Southern Utah, from Zion National Park, to the Staircase, Canyon Lands, and on to Moab, is an amazing place. It’s so beautiful and hard to describe. Zion is more beautiful than Yosemite. The area around Brian Head in the summer has Aspen forests covering lava flows, and the ground covered in wild flowers. The hoodoos in Bryce are amazing–more so Canyonlands. And Moab is like Monument Valley only more so, with what may be the best off roading experience in the country.

          Hundreds of miles of back roads and two lane highways–and everywhere I go it’s the same.

    2. There are only about one gazillion ways to open a beer bottle sans opener. If not having an opener (which I doubt is even possible) keeps you from your beer you really didn’t want the beer in the first place.

      1. And almost nobody knows any of them because they assume they’ll be able to buy a bottle opener wherever they buy beer in bottles.

        1. I wasn’t sure but just tried and you can open one bottle with another. If you bought beer you bought a bottle opener.

          1. Yeah, but how do you open the last bottle, smart guy?

            1. When done correctly there is no last bottle.

    3. “you don’t have to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.”

      I always wear a helmet anyway, but how cool it that I don’t have to!

    4. Anyone that gets between a man and a cold beer is a servant of the devil.


    5. you can use a lighter if you like wedge it between the lip of the cap and part of your hand. im sure there’s a video on youtube.

  5. Anyone who drinks Utah wine deserves it.

    I lived there for about 6 years and would go back in a second- in the larger scheme of things, what they’re shitty about is relatively minor and symbolic, what they’re good about is the big stuff. Any state that would send Mike Lee to DC is OK by this ((())).

    I have to admit that when I moved there, they put up a sign on the highway. “Jew- Next Exit.”

    1. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a lowlife piece of shit compared to someone else, get some Mormon colleagues in a professional field. Educated, usually “worldly” in some sense due to missionary work abroad, wholesome, saccharine.

      1. This has been my experience. They are just so darned *nice*.

      2. Dude, I worked for the brother in law of the President of the LDS church and for a bishop. My colleagues were about 50% Mormon. They were remarkably decent people and never made me feel like a lowlife piece of shit Jew. I think their religion is goofy, but I’m sure they thought mine was as well. No matter, we all had a great working relationship and full mutual trust.

        1. And yes, they were all fluent in at least one language other than English, sometimes more than one.

        2. It’s not about them, it’s about me. I was merely using hyperbole to accentuate how fucking decent the Mormons if had experience with tend to be. In some way I even feel badly about terrifying a whiteshirt trying an unsolicited conversion on me at night time in a public square.

          1. When the missionaries come to our house, I surprise them by having a shelf full of books on their religion and a pretty good working knowledge of the lodge secrets. They take it with good humor and are almost always surprised that I have documentary proof that they’re not supposed to try to convert Jews.

            Did I mention Mia Love?

            1. MIA Love?

              Is that some twisted pr0n that features John Rambo and his VC captors?

              1. Nope. Utah’s token black female Mormon Republican legislator. They think she’s delightfully articulate keen!

      3. Agreed. I worked at a company that had acquired another company in Utah and we had the same experience.

        The Utah guys were all super nice and businesslike. Wonderful people. But they weren’t much fun to go drinking with after work.

    2. Yeah, Mike Lee is awesome. In a sane and just world he’ll end up on the Supreme Court some day.

      1. In a sane and just world

        Let me know when you find that mythical beast.

  6. I’m against this “Zion curtain” law because it arbitrarily restricts liberty.

    Meanwhile, the Eddie in some commenters’ heads is saying “the only problem with this law is that it doesn’t make the curtain even bigger, praise Jesus!”

    1. Your real problem is that this law wasn’t instituted by Catholics. :-p

      1. Well, one thing you can say about Catholics – they never disagree amongst themselves!


    2. But I wouldn’t be Eddie if I didn’t add this quote and comment:

      “Yahne told Salt Lake City’s Fox affiliate that “”those in Utah who don’t believe the Mormon church controls what is done in Utah… are naive.””

      Perhaps they are naive, but isn’t the point that this is a bad law no matter who got it passed?

      I mean, I presume he’d be against the law if MADD pressed for it with a totally secular campaign.

      1. “Yahne told Salt Lake City’s Fox affiliate that “”those in Utah who don’t believe the Mormon church controls what is done in Utah… are naive.”

        Kinda like how the Catholics own New York.

    3. Changing your name frequently is kind of like the Zion Curtain law, Eddie.

      I don’t know who the fuck I’m talking to anymore. Is this something we’ve talked about before?

      What’s liberty maximizing for you may not be liberty maximizing for other people.

      God only knows who’s behind Eddie’s Zion Curtain. I suppose that’s okay, so long as it isn’t Tulpa.

      1. Who’s behind the curtain? Some jerk, but not Tulpa, I can assure you. A different jerk.

        Naming myself after a rock star, or a guy who is a much better writer than me, or using a Catholic-pride term – all of these names have their problems – so I decided they’d all had their day and it was time for something new.

  7. Time someone comissioned Christo to wrap the Mormon Tabernacle in black polyester.

  8. When are Mormons going to be listed as domestic terrorists?

    1. Well you know, at one time they were. They were run out of most of the US because of their crazy behavior.

      Eventually they decided to change tacks. “We should try to be as nice as we possibly can, while minimizing the crazier aspects of our religion)”

      And by and large they did and have been accepted. And while people still make fun of them, they don’t get violent in return, they try to turn it to their advantage by showing how tolerant they are towards that.

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