SALT LAKE CITY — On Monday, Gov. Gary Herbert extended the public health order requiring bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m.
Kirk Bengtzen, the owner of Twist Bar & Bistro, said the news of the health order being extended was the breaking point. Now, close to 10 bar owners plan to sue the state of Utah, Bengtzen said.
“Don’t require us to shut down and threaten to fine us up to $10,000 and potentially take away our liquor license if we continue to do business, yet offer no help. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
If shutting things down is the best thing, Bengtzen said, he is fine with that as long as there is some help provided to restaurant and bar employees.
“There is no assistance for me to take care of these fabulous employees that we have,” he said.
Servers and bartenders depend on tips, and it’s impossible for them to make money right now, according to Michael Repp, the spokesperson, for Sun Trapp LBGTQI Bar.
“Our hands are tied — there's nothing we can do to push more revenue, to bring more people in when you take out that componentry of 10-1 a.m.,” he said.
Bengtzen said it’s upsetting that the bar owners and employees who have been doing everything to keep people safe are being impacted in such a negative way.
“Don’t hurt the ones who have really gone the extra mile from day one when we reopened in May,” he said.
FOX 13 News asked Bengtzen and Repp what could be done to stop the bar owners from filing the lawsuit. They responded with two options: The state provides financial assistance so bar owners can pay their employees a fair wage, where they won't be dependent on tips like the PPP loans provided at the beginning of the pandemic, or if the mandate is lifted.
Bar owners are currently working with a team of lawyers and plan to file the lawsuit late this week or early next week.
There is also an online push for Utah to allow the sale of to-go liquor. You can read the petition here.
The Utah Deptartment of Health released the following statement to FOX 13 on why the alcohol sales mandate is in place. This is not a statement about the pending lawsuit.
"We know that COVID-19 spreads easily in crowded, indoor environments where people are not wearing masks. This is precisely the type of environment that is created late at night in bars, where social distancing becomes nearly impossible. By stopping alcohol sales at 10 p.m. our intent is to limit these types of large, indoor gatherings where COVID-19 could spread from person to person.”
For the latest COVID-19 information, click here.