Bars ‘excited’ after 10 p.m. curfew lifted, but say they’ll need compensation to survive

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) – On Thursday, bar owners who sued Gov. Gary Herbert over a 10 p.m. curfew on drink sales told ABC4 that they are celebrating his decision.

The curfew is over.

“We’re really excited, and grateful. Grateful that this has finally happened,” said Kirk Bengtzen, owner of Twist Bar Bistro & Social Distancing.

“It’s been a long battle,” he added.

For the last six weeks, he says bar sales have been sagging under the curfew, which bans alcohol sales after 10 p.m. as part of efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Attorney Janelle Bauer represents Bengtzen and nine other bars who filed a recent lawsuit that named Gov. Gary Herbert.

On Thursday, during a news conference about the state’s response to the pandemic, Herbert announced the 10 p.m. curfew would go away as of Friday.

“It was arbitrary — we didn’t believe that it related to stopping the spread of COVID,” said Bauer.

“There is no difference between having a drink at your table in a bar at 9:30 p.m. vs. 10:30 p.m., and so we’re glad that he listened to our concerns and did the right thing,” added Bauer.

She says it will be important to read the public health order Friday before making any final decisions, but she says it’s likely the lawsuit will be dropped. As for Bengtzen, he says bar owners are struggling — and the fight to get compensation for government restrictions during the pandemic will continue .

“We’ve averaged four — sometimes five or six — team members a week coming in crying saying that they can’t pay rent,” said Bengtzen.

“Before Thanksgiving, they were talking about, ‘I can buy Thanksgiving dinner for my family, but I’m not going to be able to make my car payment,’” added Bengtzen.

He says his bar lost out on $200,000 in sales and tips over the last six weeks, which he says is directly linked to the curfew. Bar owners make most of their money selling alcohol after 10 p.m, he says.

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