SALT LAKE CITY -- The Gateway shopping center in downtown Salt Lake City looks different these days. The retail shops are closed, as are some of the restaurants -- but not all of them.
“Every eyeball that sees us is a potential customer," said Jason Dreelin, the director of operations at Chedda Burger." Seriously -- every single eyeball, we want to grab one more set, one more set. Come check us out, we are still here, we are still making food."
Chedda Burger is one of several restaurants still open and offering curbside pick-up for customers. It hasn’t been easy, Dreelin admits.
“A massive [financial] hit. We are probably [doing] 30 percent of our sales that we used to,” he said.
One of the newer restaurants to the shopping center, HallPass, is also struggling. HallPass is Utah’s first food hall, offering several restaurants and bars inside one location.
“We’ve got eight different restaurants, so obviously offering all of those at the same time when you see a big decline in business has been challenging,” said Jonathan Humes, manager for Hallpass.
Instead, only a few restaurants are offered each day.
In 2016, Vestar Corporation bought the Gateway with the promise to revitalize the shopping center. The group has formed a tenant action committee to help the businesses survive during COVID-19.
“Our philosophy is we rebuilt the Gateway with these tenants, we all know that this was a huge effort to bring the Gateway back to what it once was, and we view them as partners. And in true partnership fashion, we’re not going to let them suffer because of this,” Vestar Vice President of Leasing Jenny Cushing said.
The company is offering assistance including rent deferrals and financial help, and the company’s marketing team is working to promote the places that are open and keep the ones that have had to close relevant. It’s going to take everyone working as partners to help each other during this time, Cushing said.
“Can this go on forever? No, it’s not realistic. But for the foreseeable future, can we survive this? Yes -- provided everybody is doing what they can do within reason and within their means to offer assistance to those who are more in need than they are,” Cushing said.
The owner of Wiseguys Comedy said he is thankful for the rent deferral option, as the comedy club has had to close its doors due to COVID-19 public health orders.
“We’ve put everything we have into this business. We opened it in 2001 and to potentially damage it or lose it all pretty quickly is scary,” Keith Stubbs said.
While Stubbs continues to look to the future and knows this is the right thing during this time, he said there are still many questions as things begin to re-open.
“The question is going to be, as far as the business model: Can the business model -- not just for my business, but for all businesses and restaurants -- can they survive with the reduced capacity, with the reduced seating?” he said.
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