Business Leaders Divided Over Salt Lake City Rally

Apr 17, 2020, 7:34 PM | Updated: Apr 18, 2020, 1:20 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Controversy over plans for a large rally has created a divide among some business owners – those that want to reopen the economy now, and those who say it’s still not safe.

KSL spoke with business owners on both sides.

The organizers behind Utah Business Revival argued that the state can open the economy now and maintain social distancing, even inside those establishments, to stay safe.

A lot of people argue that mentality, even the planned socially-distance rally on Saturday, is unsafe.

Beyond the empty streets and closed businesses, both sides of the debate said they agree COVID-19 is hurting us.

Some said the long-term damage from a shuttered economy has not been properly addressed.

“By locking down the economy, we’re not just talking about costing people money, we’re talking about costing people’s livelihood,” said Jared St. Clair, owner of Vitality Nutrition, in Bountiful.

At first, St. Clair said business for him was way up, and then way down, in light of stay at home directives.

“Financially, I’m not particularly concerned about me, but when we talk about the greater good, we have to look at the economy as a whole and what is happening,” he said.

St. Clair said he supported the Utah Business Revival, and will be at what organizers have called a socially-distanced rally and picnic Saturday at 5 p.m.

Not all business owners have been onboard with this thinking.

“To call (the) event a protest… I think it’s a thinly-veiled cash grab,” Dave Blackmer said.

Blackmer said he worried the push was more about money than it was about people.

His business, a mobile escape room, has been completely shut down. He has a day job, but now has two employees out of work.

“I care about people. I don’t care about dollar bills. I would close this, if it meant that it would save one life. That’s much more important to me,” Blackmer said.

Even with Governor Gary Herbert’s announced plans to gradually start reopening parts of the economy as soon as May, the argument was over what the community is doing now – and whether lost jobs and income could considerably add to the lives lost to COVID-19.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said the planned gathering would be a violation of the county order to avoid mass gatherings, and that law enforcement will need to be aware of the event.

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Business Leaders Divided Over Salt Lake City Rally