SALT LAKE CITY — The owners of 25 bars in the Salt Lake area sent a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert Wednesday asking him to consider lifting the ban of alcohol sales after 10 p.m.
Herbert's health order went into effect Nov. 9 and was extended last week.
The letter to the governor states the bar owners support reasonable regulations to slow the spread of COVID-19, but don’t believe this mandate is one of those.
“We do not believe, however, that the 10 p.m. alcohol service cut off is reasonably tailored to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our businesses. Instead, the restriction is devastating the bar industry in Utah, has caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business revenues over the past month, is harming our employees, and is effectively closing many Utah businesses,” the letter reads in part.
The bar owners argue the mandate is causing them great financial hardships and hurting their employees with no assistance.
“The 10 p.m. alcohol cut off has therefore effectively closed these 'late bars' to the public, and has made it virtually impossible for the rest of the bar industry in high transmission areas to continue to employ their wait staff, security professionals, managers, and bartenders,” the letter reads.
Each establishment is taking every precaution to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and provide people a safe place to go, the letter states. The hope is Herbert will recognize this and lift the health order.
“We therefore urge you to reconsider the 10 p.m. alcohol service cut off and allow Utah’s bars to operate just like the rest of Utah’s businesses, with reasonable COVID-19 restrictions that do not force closure of the businesses themselves and in accordance with their DABC alcohol licenses, which allow for the service of alcohol until 12:59 a.m.,” the letter continues.
If the letter does not gain any traction in the next day or so, some bar owners will move forward with a lawsuit against the state, says Kirk Bengtzen, the owner of Twist Bar & Bistro.
The Utah Department of Health released the following statement to FOX 13 on why the alcohol sales mandate is in place, although the statement is not about the pending lawsuit.
"We know that COVID-19 spreads easily in crowded, indoor environments where people are not wearing masks. This is precisely the type of environment that is created late at night in bars, where social distancing becomes nearly impossible. By stopping alcohol sales at 10 p.m. our intent is to limit these types of large, indoor gatherings where COVID-19 could spread from person to person.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Herbert said the governor had not yet reviewed the letter.