This Is Not A Bar.
A lot has already been said of Utah’s newest liquor quirk and a lot will yet be said. In case you haven’t heard, Utah bars and restaurants will now be required to clearly identify themselves by hanging up ugly little signs that state in big letters that they are a BAR or a RESTAURANT and that one should never be confused with the other.
With respect to the views and data that point to alcohol use as a social ill, I offer that these signs do not root themselves in any sort of evidence-based analysis of alcoholism. They merely stand as 8×11 pillories and are the fruit of an idea planted by former Utah State Sen. John Valentine.
Signifying differences between Bars and Restaurants was always an obsession for Valentine. The tee-totaling representative from Utah County was a strident supporter of the Zion Curtain and happy to paint sensible, evidence-based alcohol policy as existing in opposition to “Family Values.”
“Our restaurants are family friendly. We don’t want the atmosphere that encourages the consumption of alcohol.” the grown-man once said during a committee meeting at the Utah State Legislature.
He expressed discomfort at the idea that bars might actually design themselves as appealing to customers – as though this was the explicit territory of “family-friendly” restaurants. He was equally concerned by restaurants that would trade in their family-friendliness for seedy lights and seductive bar areas. The “glamour” of bartending (you know, working for tips at an Applebee’s), was a clear threat to the safety and temperance of children.
It makes one wonder if Sen. Valentine had his way, would he induce all bars to become darkened, dank holes in the wall or something else that fit his cartoonish vision of what people casually enjoying liquor looks like? He certainly used his power and influence to revive the Zion Curtain in 2013, only later regretting that he didn’t force the odd structure on EVERY restaurant in the state (a handful of older restaurants were given time to avoid the inevitable reconstruction).
Ultimately, anyone who expects these signs to reduce underage alcohol consumption is engaging in the same magical, glassy-eyed views that Valentine held. TV, the internet, and children’s peers will do all the leg work that the shadowy alcohol cabal needs. This is a scarlet letter for any establishment that dared offer a full range of food and drink options. While polls indicate that more and more Utahns are waking up to these unfair and silly practices, the legislature is still lagging behind.