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Legal Libations

Zion Curtain



It's embarrassing to live in a state where my adult rights have to be micromanaged. Our Legislature is again making the majority of Utahns look stupid and backward by sidelining attempts to rid the state of the Zion Curtain. Legislators don't want kids watching drinks being made. And yes, this is Utah—the 36th state to ratify the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 (it was Utah's vote that was needed to pass the amendment). "No other state shall take away this glory from Utah!" yelled a member of the Utah delegation to Congress. Oy vey! Who hid our history?

High West Distillery liquor makers like to share the fact that Mark Twain, in his 1872 book Roughing It, tasted the famous Utah-made Valley Tan and remarked it was "a kind of whisky or first cousin to it; it is of Mormon invention and manufactured only in Utah. Tradition says it is made of (imported) fire and brimstone."

Brother Brigham didn't approve of drunkards and didn't want valuable grain resources diverted to make the devil's brew. That was until the holy man's advisers made him aware that travelers and businessmen were thirsty and would pay good money for booze. Hold onto your stove-pipe hats, brothers: Back then, ZCMI sold beer, wine and that Valley Tan! Converts from Italy and the Mediterranean moved to southern Utah 150 years ago and started mashing grapes for wine. In 1864, Mr. Young applauded them, saying: "I anticipate the day when we can have the privilege of using, at our sacraments, pure wine, produced within our borders."

It was Mormon leader Heber J. Grant who, in 1921, aligned LDS policies with the national temperance movement and made alcoholic beverages off-limits for church members. And then, of course, the state of Utah decided to become the sole purveyor of liquor to sell it to gentiles via the state liquor-store system.

Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, is gently pushing logic at lawmakers, seeking a change in licensing requirements. Utah's current liquor licenses are based on population. Restaurant licenses are determined by dividing the current population by 7,493, which allows 399 permits. Convention hotels are required to obtain individual licenses for each eatery and bar on their property. The Downtown Alliance is asking that the state require only one license per hotel, thereby releasing dozens of licenses to a huge waiting list. That way, Mormons can continue making money off visitors to Zion, while not increasing the number of licenses for the population.

Clarification: The owner of Habits at 832 E. 3900 South in Murray says he's still the owner of the club and that it remains open for nightlife and dining. The Feb. 11 column titled "Rental Blues" may have indicated otherwise.