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Some Utah restaurants will keep dining rooms closed, even as counties allow reopening

Posted at 10:18 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 00:18:50-04

Friday is a big day for many Utah restaurants because they'll be allowed to start dine-in service again, for the first time in weeks.

But some restaurants tell Fox 13 they don't think it's a good idea, and they're choosing to keep their dining rooms closed.

The restaurant Cucina in the Avenues in Salt Lake City, translates to the word "kitchen" in Italian.

One could say it's an appropriate name for a restaurant during COVID-19.

Owner Dean Pierose explained they've only done, "curbside and no dine-in since it was mandated."

He found out they can reopen their dining room again on May 1, with parameters like keeping tables six feet apart, and mandating that all staff wear masks and gloves.

His reaction: "I think it's reckless."

Pierose even posted a video on social media that creatively demonstrated his concerns over how they'd keep customers safe. In the video, two people clink their wine glasses and begin to drink-- only they're wearing masks. The wine cascades off of the masks, and onto their clothing.

"Clearly you are not going to eat through a mask," Pierose said. "So, we're going to have a myriad of people in here without masks, which is potentially dangerous to my staff and vice versa."

Even if they were to open up their dining room to customers, he explained that the regulations just wouldn't be cost-effective for them because the tables are few and far between.

Plus, Pierose indicated, an environment filled with masks and gloves is not the kind of dining experience they want for their customers.

Several other restaurants have shared similar sentiments with Fox 13, including Harbor Seafood & Steak Co. in Salt Lake City.

"As safe as we try to be, ultimately we are the ones that are liable if somebody decides not to be responsible and comes out sick, or not maintain their own hygiene," owner Randall Curtis said.

Should an outbreak at an establishment occur at the restaurant, he explained that a professional deep cleaning could cost him upwards of $10,000.

Instead of opening up their dining room, Curtis will be offering something entirely different: Drive-through 'fast food.'

The restaurant will offer items like fish and chips, clam chowder, fried shrimp, and smoked burgers at Curtis' drive-through coffee stand Honest Abe's, which sits in the same parking lot as the restaurant.

"We just felt like having a drive-through... we had a capture on that with Harbor, and just kind of give our people jobs and something to do," he said.

They're also offering take-and-bake meals, he said, as well as take-home meal kits for breakfast and dinner.

Cucina's creativity to keep business comes in the form of four-course dinner specials three days a week, and take-home pizza and pasta kits.

Head chef Joey Ferran explained that they've been wildly successful with those offerings.

"It allows me, really importantly, to generate work for my staff to do," he said, adding, "so that we can keep people employed here."

And it allows Cucina to keep their business at just that-- the kitchen.