SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (ABC4 News) – In a letter addressed to Governor Gary Herbert on Wednesday, 25 bar owners in Salt Lake County pleaded with him to lift the 10 p.m. alcohol service cut off contained in State Public Health Order 2020-25.
The order is for bars in high transmission areas and was in response to skyrocketing COVID-19 cases happening throughout the state.
The initial two-week order began on November 9th. When it was scheduled to end, the Governor extended the order to Dec. 7.
There’s now concern it will be extended again. “Two weeks ago, I had five team members come to me or one of my managers in tears saying I have a choice right now Kirk. I can either provide Thanksgiving dinner for my kids and my family, or I can pay rent,” says Kirk Bengtzen, the owner of Twist Bar & Bistro in Salt Lake City.
Bengtzen says he’s been writing and calling the Governor’s office for weeks with no response about the mandate. In the letter to the Governor, Bengtzen says the “restriction is devastating the bar industry in Utah, has caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business revenues over the past month, is harming our employees, and is effectively closing many Utah businesses.”
Bengtzen says 95% of the revenue bars make comes from alcohol sales.
“Specifically in Salt Lake City, happens between 9:30 p.m. and 1 a.m.,” he explains.
With the 10 p.m. cut off, he says he’s losing those sales and more.
“For November, my average month, I lost a $150,000 last month,” he says. “Just me. That doesn’t count the extra $44,000 in tips that didn’t get paid out to my team.”
ABC4 did reach out to the Governor’s office. It tells us “the letter is still under review and the Governor and his senior team will need to take a look at it.”
This growing controversy comes as the Salt Lake Chamber sent its own letter to Governor Herbert and other leaders Wednesday evening asking them to allocate the state’s remaining federal pandemic relief funds to state businesses.
“On behalf of the Salt Lake Chamber, Downtown Alliance, and the Utah Chamber Policy Coalition, I write to you today regarding use of the State’s remaining CARES Act funds. As Utah’s largest business organization, we have worked very closely with businesses, large and small, since the beginning of the pandemic. Based on our experiences with these businesses, and reflecting on past assistance programs, we ask the state to disburse remaining CARES Act funds through a short term, emergency grant program for businesses in industries that have been most impacted and are least likely to survive without assistance. While many businesses have been able to adapt and continue operations under the current constraints and challenges, others are unable to operate in any way close to normal business volumes due to health restrictions and guidelines. While we support these guidelines and believe careful measures have been necessary to help control the virus spread and keep the economy operating, it is difficult to watch those businesses that are wilting under the restrictions that affect them disproportionately.”