SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 News) – ABC 4 News got an inside look into the operations of a downtown restaurant as it follows state regulations that mandate alcoholic beverages be made outside of public view.
Pallet, located near 300 South and 400 West in Salt Lake City, is one of dozens of downtown eateries that support HB228. The bill wants to take down restaurant barriers known as “Zion curtains” that shield the public from seeing bartenders or the preparation of alcoholic drinks.
Pallet opened its doors in February 2012. Eateries that opened before 2010 are exempt from the regulation.
Esther Imotan is the manager of the restaurant. She said two doors are used to block the view of customers from seeing drinks being made.
"It's just another thing that makes it difficult for us to be a functioning restaurant," Imotan said.
The restaurant's bartender Matt Pfohl must go behind the doors to prepare alcoholic beverages in a tight corner of the kitchen. Pfohl said on a busy night he makes about 150 drinks in a space about two feet wide and two feet deep, all while servers are passing directly behind him.
Although the mandate creates a logistical nightmare for the staff, they pull it off pretty well. Most of the customers don't notice their drinks are being made behind closed doors.
Guests at the restaurant agree the Zion curtain needs to come down. They said the law does not make sense and it confuses tourists who visit Utah.
Art Brown, President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the debate over this liquor law has been had before. He said teens are susceptible to alcohol advertisements and seeing the drinks made in a restaurant can encourage drinking. Brown also said more must be done to protect teens from exposure to alcohol.
Imotan said their establishment targets adults and not teens or children. Several guests have expressed their interest in seeing the mixing process so they know what is going into their drink.
"The locals are understanding because they know the routine, but for tourists we are constantly explaining the laws and what we can and cannot pour," she added.
The owner of Pallet said he does not drink, but is in favor of having the Zion curtain come down because he understands having a bar in public view is part of the full restaurant experience.
HB228, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, was approved by the House Committee on Wednesday. HB228 now goes to the full House for consideration.