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Local businesses form 'Save Utah Jobs' initiative to ask lawmakers for aid

Posted at 4:31 PM, Nov 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 00:43:06-05

SALT LAKE CITY — About 90 small businesses in Utah have joined forces to create the “Save Utah Jobs” initiative.

The effort spearheaded by Salt Lake County Councilwoman Shireen Ghorbani is calling on Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Mitt Romney to support a targeted economic stimulus package during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“Utah jobs are on the line. People pay their rent, they eat with these jobs in our music venues and our restaurants and bars all across the state,” Ghorbani said.

Most of the businesses that have joined the initiative are restaurants and bars that have been forced to limit capacity or cut back on their hours in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Those health restrictions have created economic hardship.

“Frankly, we need it months ago. We are running at a loss,” said Sean Neves, owner of Salt Lake City’s Water Witch Bar. “There’s a number of us on the verge of collapse.”

It’s a similar story at Dolcetti Gelato, a business that relies heavily on foot traffic and people stopping to gather.

“We’re operating at about half of what we normally do,” said Amelia England, the store’s general manager. “I would be so depressed to see it all disappear after this.”

However, entrepreneurs fear many businesses will be unable to survive without some financial assistance before the end of the year.

“I don’t know if you’ll see the same Salt Lake City on the back end of this if we don’t have some sort of relief before we regain our full capacity,” said Mike Askerlund, owner of Alibi, a downtown bar. “The message should be loud and clear that this is an emergency.”

Businesses believe they have done their part and have endured a hit to their bottom line to keep the community safe. They hope government leaders recognize that sacrifice.

“We are not looking for handouts,” Neves said. “What we are looking for is additional assistance so we can safely operate and also take care of our employees who are our families.”

Customers are encouraged to buy gift cards from local shops, restaurants and bars this holiday season.

Those gifts can be redeemed when the pandemic is over while providing a lifeline for struggling businesses.