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Utah bar owners react to new COVID-19 restrictions

Posted at 4:35 PM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 18:52:02-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A new state of emergency for COVID-19 in Utah went into effect Monday afternoon and will expire on Nov. 23 unless extended by Gov. Herbert.

As part of the order, all bars and restaurants in Utah will be required to stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. but can stay open later to serve food, a spokesperson for the governor’s office said.

READ: Utah reports 2,247 new COVID-19 cases, 2 new deaths

This came as a surprise to David Morris, who owns five bars in Utah.

“Two days ago, we didn’t know what was going to happen until everybody’s phone went crazy and the Governor says we are going to shut you down at 10 o’clock,” Morris said.

The pandemic has been crazy for the bar industry, Morris said. The bar business has had to reinvent themselves, focusing on food, to-go orders, curbside and delivery orders.

“We don’t sell food to make a living, we sell an experience: band, dancing, all that stuff,” Morris said.

The "normal" bar experience has changed with COVID-19, Morris said.

“Whatever the opposite of social distancing is, that’s what we normally sell and so now the main thing we make our money on is gone,” he said.

Tim Ryan, co-owner of Bout Time Pub & Grub, said he supports anything to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but doesn't believe changing the cut-off time for alcohol to 10 p.m. will make a difference.

READ: Salt Lake City libraries to close for in-person services

“The notion that there will be behavior after 10 p.m. that’s different than before 10 p.m. doesn’t really resonate with our guests,” Ryan said.

Both Ryan and Morris said they are committed to following all COVID-19 restrictions including requiring guests to wear masks, social distancing and using enhanced cleaning protocols. This is something both owners have implemented since the beginning of the pandemic.

Some employees have decided to leave the service industry during the pandemic, both bar owners said.

The restaurant and bar industry will continue to be here for you, but right now the industry needs the public to be here for us, Ryan said.

“Any chance you get to support restaurants and bars, please do it,” he said.

Right now, it’s just a waiting game as to what could come next, Morris said.

“We closed down March 16th, or were closed down on March 16th, when there were 300 and something cases in the whole state, and now we are cranking out 3,000 cases a day and we are still open so we were waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Morris said.

For more information on the new order, click here.

For the latest COVID-19 information, click here.