The Salt Lake County Health Department issued Notices of Violation & Orders of Restriction to five Salt Lake City establishments Saturday night, according to a spokesperson. The notices were issued because the bars and clubs failed to follow the state’s COVID-19 regulations, per the health order.
The five were establishments are:
- Echo, 134 W. Pierpont Ave.
- Karma, 122 W. Pierpont Ave.
- Lake Effect, 155 W. 200 South.
- Twist, 32 Exchange Place.
- An establishment hosting a private party located at 60 W. Market St. (formerly known as the New Yorker).
Both Lake Effect and Twist submitted plans and were able to reopen Sunday.
“An establishment may reopen after it provides a written plan that demonstrates how the owner or operator will functionally meet and enforce the health order’s requirements to prevent transmission of COVID. If SLCoHD determines the submitted plan is adequate to protect public health, the establishment may resume operation,” a spokesperson for the Salt Lake County Health Department said.
Written warnings were also given to the following establishments this weekend:
- Soundwell, 149 West 200 South
- Wasted Space, 342 South State
- London Belle, 321 South Main
“Echo, Lake Effect, and Twist have previously received written warnings for not meeting state and/or county COVID health order requirements, and Echo received a previous Notice of Violation & Order of Restriction in September 2020,” the spokesperson added.
The owner of Twist said he is beyond frustrated by accusations from the health department.
“Clearly we are doing a good job," said Kirk Bengtzen. "Clearly, we do have a safe bar, and clearly they weren’t worried about the patrons otherwise they would’ve shut me down and kick everyone out right then. And I wasn’t even closed down for 12 hours."
The health department claimed Twist’s tables were not 10 feet apart and therefore it was a social distance violation, Bengtzen said. However, Bengtzen said the enforcers allowed Twist to stay open the remainder of Saturday night and after submitting their plans Sunday morning, Twist was able to open as usual that evening. No fines were issued either, he said.
“Now, all of the sudden, they come in here when we do all these extra things and they tell us, 'Oh, because your tables aren’t 10 feet apart, we are going to shut you down.' And then they say, 'Well, you can still stay open for the rest of the day.' Okay, wait a minute if it was that bad why didn’t you shut me down and kick everybody out?” added Bengtzen.
One of the most frustrating parts, Bengtzen said, is there are several establishments he believes are not following any of the COVID-19 health guidelines that are still operating.
“There are other establishments that are full-on not even looking at, or just flat out ignoring what’s going on here, and we have sent information, pictures, videos, peoples testimonies explaining what happened at these other establishments. No mask mandate, no social distancing mandate, even the bartenders weren’t wearing gloves or a mask and nothing has happened to them,” he said.
In December, Bengtzen, along with several other Utah bar owners, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gary Herbert over the state's 10 p.m. alcohol curfew. The lawsuit was dismissed after the order was lifted, a lawyer representing the bar owners confirmed to FOX 13 News.
Bengtzen worries this could be a reason he may be targeted.
“I feel and I was worried and even my legal counsel told me, 'Kirk, when you go after the governor and health department for this 10 p.m. mandate shut down, you are going to put a target on your back,’” he said.
Employees at Twist take extra precautions including enforcing social distancing, requiring masks, taking temperature checks, doing extra sanitation and more to keep people safe, Bengtzen said.
“All we are trying to do is maximize as many people as we can have in here, keeping people safe,” he said.
FOX 13 News reached out to the other establishments that received violations but did not hear back by the time of publication. The Salt Lake County Health Department declined to do an interview with FOX 13 News.