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Utah bars, customers rejoice as alcohol curfew expires

Posted at 9:17 PM, Dec 18, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — The alcohol curfew has been lifted and Utah bars are officially serving drinks later than they've been able to in more than a month.

With the time restrictions gone just ahead of the weekend, establishments like White Horse and Whiskey Street prepped for a busy Friday night.

"How is everyone doing today? Good? Okay" Asked Matt Crandall, of employees at White Horse. "So, a couple things: You guys all know, tonight is the first night that we've lifted the 10 o'clock curfew."

The employees gathered in the back for a pre-night shift meeting, to discuss details of their first curfew-less night plus other housekeeping items like their daily specials.

"Couple things that have changed -- really not a lot that's changed for you guys," Crandall said. "But, the governor has asked that all tables stay at their tables. Make sure that there's no tables that are interacting with other guests if they're not in their party. That they cannot carry a drink throughout restaurant."

Crandall said this is how they've operated since day one, following health regulations and taking safety steps. But he reminded staff to explain those restrictions to customers at the door.

With the curfew landing on a busy Friday night for bars, that 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. crowd was likely to keep them busy.

Some customers showed up Friday night for dinner, ready to take advantage of staying out late into the night.

"We're definitely just getting this night started, knowing that this restriction is lifted," said Tim Abbot, who was visiting Salt Lake City from Philadelphia.

He explained it made their weekend guys ski trip much better. Drinks until late for them, equals dollars spent at local businesses.

"They've been in an extremely tough situation, and so I'm glad that during peak hours for bars that they're actually able to continue to serve beer and alcohol," said Tim's friend James Turner, who recently moved to Salt Lake.

Crandall said that extra business after 10 p.m. will help them almost get back to breaking even, instead of losing money.

"It makes a big difference," he said. "We go from about a 30 percent revenue stream to almost 50 percent. It really helps us and helps our staff be able to pay their bills, put some money in their pocket. It helps us cover all our expenses."

With the late-night flood gates back open, how will bars manage the crowds?

Crandall explained that lifting the curfew won't actually make them any busier.

Both White Horse and Whiskey Street each roped off tables to operate at 50 percent capacity long ago. Crandall said they don't let anyone in either bar unless they have a table open for those guests to sit at.

They just won't have to clear the tables and empty everyone out at 10 p.m.

"It's really not a difference in being able to have more people here," he said. "It's a difference in being able to have that revenue stream open for another three more hours. So, you won't see us operating any differently at six than you would at midnight."