Letter from bar owners to Governor Gary Herbert

Dec 3, 2020, 5:40 PM | Updated: Feb 7, 2023, 11:52 am



December 2, 2020
Governor Gary R. Herbert
350 North State Street, Suite 200
PO Box 142220
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220

Dear Governor Herbert,

This letter is sent on behalf of the undersigned bar licensees who are on the verge of economic ruin due to the 10 p.m. alcohol service cut off contained in the State Public Health Order 2020-25 for high transmission areas. In Covid-19 press conferences and business publications, you have repeatedly stated your “goal” is to keep every business open during the pandemic. We agree with this goal and support reasonable regulations that are aimed to preventing the spread of Covid-19. 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 Order suspends alcohol sales during the busiest hours of operation for all of the undersigned businesses. The majority of bars in Utah make most of their revenue from the sale of alcohol between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 am. In addition, there are quite a few bars that do not open for business until 9 p.m. 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. Bars that are open during the day or earlier in the evening are also seeing dramatic declines in foot traffic at lunch or during the after-work evening time frame due to lack of tourists, business travelers, and local businesses who have employees working from home instead of traveling to city centers for work. These businesses are now relying on late-night foot traffic to break even. And whether open or not, there are hard costs that have to be paid each month including rent, insurance, and utilities.

The 10 p.m. alcohol service cutoff also does not appear to be related to any legitimate government interest in stopping the transmission of Covid-19. Bars and restaurants are actively working to stop the transmission of the virus and have instituted all of the required restrictions including employee face mask requirements, 6 feet of physical distance from other patrons in a separate party, limiting capacity to maintain social distancing, requiring face masks when patrons are entering, exiting and/or not actively eating or drinking, and constantly sanitizing surfaces, among other restrictions. These practices continue during all operational hours. If there are bars who are not strictly enforcing the restrictions, they should be dealt with individually with enforcement measures, but for the vast majority of bars, all of the Covid-19 health restrictions are followed and enforced by private security professionals and bar staff during all hours of operation. There is simply no need to prohibit alcohol service after 10pm with the other restrictions in place.

Bar staff and owners are also repeatedly witnessing people making plans to leave bars at 10pm, where strict Covid-19 and alcohol service regulations are enforced, and head to private house parties and gatherings where the State has repeatedly said the transmission of Covid-19 is the highest. Allowing the bars to serve alcohol for three more hours per night prevents these unregulated gatherings and allows bars to control alcohol service with their trained professional staff.

It was reported this week in the Salt Lake Tribune that 452 restaurants have closed for good, 16,000 restaurant workers lost their jobs and there are 22,000 Utah workers in the hospitality industry without work. The 10pm alcohol service cut off is going to increase these numbers significantly if not immediately reconsidered. Once profitable local businesses are on the verge of going out of business, forever changing the economic landscape of Utah’s city centers and night life. Many of the employees of the undersigned businesses are struggling to make ends meet, receiving a fraction of the tips they once made, and experiencing dramatic cuts to their hours and wages. These employees are facing very real economic hardships caused solely by this unreasonable and arbitrary restriction.

We therefore urge you to reconsider the 10pm 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 12:59am. For many of the undersigned, alcohol service is the primary service provided by the business. If you cut off alcohol service at 10pm, you are effectively closing these businesses at 10pm, contrary to your stated purpose to keep all Utah businesses open and operating safely during the pandemic.

Sent on behalf of the undersigned business establishments:

Kirk Bengtzen
Twist Bar & Bistro
Bob Brown
Cheers to You
Geremy Cloyd
Big Willies
Deno Dakis
John Dale
Johnny’s On Second
Kenneth Dinsmore
Robert Dutton
Lucky 13 S.L.C.
Lucky’s Iron Door
Dan Eckersley
Bout Tim Pub & Grub
Rheda Fouad
The Ruin
Jason Hook
The Westerner
Bridget Gordon
Green Pig Pub
Dave Morris
Funk and Dive Bar
Piper Down
Alan Moss
Area 51
James Peck
The Break Sports Grill
Riley Richter
The Sun Trapp
William Rowe
The Midway

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Letter from bar owners to Governor Gary Herbert