SALT LAKE CITY — The state's largest business organization is asking Governor Gary Herbert and legislative leadership to give Utah's troubled hospitality industry some relief before the end of the year.
In a letter sent on Wednesday, the Salt Lake Chamber asked that money be appropriated from the federal CARES Act specifically to help Utah restaurants, bars and entertainment groups.
"Restaurants, small retail businesses, hotels, businesses that support conventions and social events, and arts organizations are among those most significantly impacted. Even though these businesses have shown incredible tenacity, ingenuity, and fortitude, it is impossible for them to operate anywhere near the levels at which they operated at this time last year," Salt Lake Chamber CEO Derek Miller wrote.
"These businesses have been true team players—they are acting in the public good and are struggling as a result. Assistance targeted for these businesses would be the best and highest use of these funds as it will help local businesses keep employees on the payroll, continue to operate through the holiday season, and hopefully survive to see the other side of the vaccine. Keeping individuals employed and local businesses afloat is the quintessence of ‘an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure.’"
The legislature has up to $300 million to spend before the end of the year, but so far there has been no sign that any of it will go to restaurants or bars, which have had to deal with COVID-19 public health orders that limit how many people are allowed in, as well as a "last call" at 10pm for alcohol service. Some bars have threatened a lawsuit against the state over the curfew.
Asked by FOX 13 about financial relief at a news conference on Thursday, Gov. Herbert said it was something being discussed with the legislature.
"Bars and restaurants have been part of the harder hit areas of our economy. So that discussion continues," he said. "It really is a matter of what the legislature is willing to do with the monies they control and have."