Last week, a group of two dozen Utah bar and restaurant owners filed a lawsuit against Governor Gary Herbert and Richard Saunders, the interim executive director of the Utah Department of Health, to end the health order. It was an “unreasonable restriction” on their businesses and one that is “causing irreparable and distinct harms” to the establishments and their employees.
The lawsuit sought no money or damages; only a lifting of the curfew. Finally, after over a month of bar owners suffering huge losses, the Governor and the health director have lifted the mandate.
Herbert said the state order took effect because the casual atmosphere “made them more conducive to the spread of the coronavirus.”
But after looking at state data, officials determined that if bar employees and patrons followed the prescribed guidelines, “they are not any riskier than going to a traditional restaurant where alcohol is served,” the governor said. “That is why we eliminated the restriction.” But why didn’t he realize this a month ago?
“I’m losing around $1,500 per day by staying open, and all I can hope for is that they lift the mandate,” said Green Pig Pub owner Bridget Gordon back in November 2020.
Not only bars and restaurants were affected by this restriction. Many other businesses such as Utah Stories rely on the “hospitality industry” bars and restaurants.
The reason why we had to go on hold and print bi-monthly this year, is that we needed to see that our bars and restaurants could somehow remain open, and pay their bills. This ban has certainly impacted dozens of ancillary businesses that are connected to the health and strength of local bars and restaurants.
452 Utah bars and restaurants have closed since the pandemic (that’s 10% of all restaurants in Utah). 16,000 industry workers have lost their jobs. These are the stats that are worth paying attention to just as the COVID infection rate. These are hard-working Utahns, many of them young people, who cannot earn a living because the Utah State leaders decided Costco, Walmart, Target and every fast-food restaurant can keep whatever hours they want, but local bars and restaurants need lockdowns.
Now there are thousands of young people who are out of work and struggling to make ends meet around the holidays. I would guess that the vast majority of these people do not want to rely on government aid, they simply want to be able to work and earn a living. While It’s great that the Governor finally lifted this ban, it should have never been imposed in the first place. And it’s really sad that it required this lawsuit for Herbert to realize that his decisions were killing local businesses and jobs.
There is still over $300 million in the relief package that Utah received from the Feds. State leaders need to spend this money before the end of the year otherwise the money will go away.
Herbert’s announcement did not include any information about additional financial help for bars and restaurants.