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Bars and employees struggling to make ends meet under new COVID-19 restrictions

Posted at 9:50 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 23:50:42-05

SALT LAKE CITY — For at least the next two weeks, bars and restaurants cannot serve alcohol after 10 pm as part of Gov. Gary Herbert’s new executive order.

The financial hit has already started, Greg Thygesen, Dir. Of Operations for Twist Bar & Grill in Downtown SLC, said.

“Most of our business comes after 9 o’clock in the evening. So, we have to shut our bar down when our busiest times come up,” he said.

Read: Utah bar owners react to new COVID-19 restrictions

One of the biggest concerns is if employees will be able to make enough money to pay their bills, Thygesen said. They are working to help staff financially and find them hours but it’s tough.

“They are worried about it. They are worried about how they are going to get through,” he said.

Sun Trapp Bar management has had to restructure their staffing and how they are assigning shifts as they watch sales drop dramatically under the new order, a spokesperson for the bar said.

“It’s an emotional warfare. You never want to be the one to have to call someone and say, ‘you know what. We just can’t do it right now,” Michael Repp said.

Read: Demand for unemployment benefits persists in Utah as pandemic continues

Even when there’s a shift for an employee, the money just isn’t there, Repp said.

“Last year at this time our bartenders were making approximately $600 a night. Good money. As of last Tuesday, they were averaging $230 on a Tuesday night. Yesterday they made $87,” he said.

Both Twist and the Sun Trapp have put safety at the forefront including enforcing masks, social distancing and adding additional cleaning measures.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to make sure it is safe,” Thygesen said.

Read: Utah reports shocking 3,919 new COVID-19 cases; 9 additional deaths

It is frustrating to see the bars being closed down early Thygesen and Repp said.

There hasn’t been enough help for small businesses in the Utah bar industry, Repp said.

“It is a nightmare trying to navigate the financial aspect of this,” he said.

While alcohol sales will stop at 10 pm, the Sun Trapp will stay open until midnight. Bars and restaurants are allowed to remain open after 10 pm to serve food, per the health order.

“This goes a step further than just being a bar and being a gay bar or an alternative bar, this is also a safe haven for our community,” Repp said.

Bar owners and managers are asking people to support local bars and restaurants in any way people can, including buying gift cards.

For the latest COVID-19 information, click here.