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Downtown goes quiet, restaurants struggle to stay open due to COVID-19

Posted at 10:24 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 09:16:35-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A normally busy Downtown Salt Lake City is quiet as people are asked to stay home and practice social distancing. Changes to daily life keep coming as elected officials, medical experts and others work to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19.

One of the recent changes orders all Utah restaurants and bars to close all dine-in in an attempt to help stop the spread of novel coronavirus.

The closure of the dining room has been hard on business, Quest Webster, manager at Eva’s Bakery, said. Right now, she said they are shifting their focus on what people want, things like grab-and-go salads and sandwiches, bread, croissants and pizza dough.

“Instead of having guests dine in, now we are going to help them dine at home,” she said.

The loss of business has come at a price, Webster admits. They’ve had to stop scheduling most of their front of house staff, as well as having to cut hours for other employees. Some kitchen staff members are working as janitors to make up lost hours.

“[The] hardest part definitely has been to have the best staff of my career and to not have any hours or money to give them,” Webster said.

One of those that was told "goodbye for now" is former barista, Lexi Johnson. While she understands why, it’s still heartbreaking, she said.

“These are all my friends, these guys are another family to me,” she said.

As the first of the month gets closer and closer, the thought of how she will pay rent without a job is scary. Others in the service industry share her worries.

“I’m thinking of picking up jobs at grocery stores or whoever needs help,” Johnson said.

The staff is committed to continuing to feed the community, Webster said. They aren’t planning to close.

“So much of our staff is unable to support themselves if we do close. So much of the reason of why we stayed open is they wouldn’t survive if we didn’t,” she said.

The outpouring of love and support from the community has been incredible, Webster said. Now, she’s asking everyone to support local businesses during this uncertain time.

“Buy gift cards. Gift cards are huge for us right now. They ensure a future for us,” she said.