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Nearly 10% of Utah restaurants have closed for good, association says

Amid efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and one week after Governor Gary Herbert issued a “no dine-in” order, small, local restaurants have reported falling sales.

(KSL TV, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The coronavirus pandemic has harmed many segments of the Utah economy, but few more than the food and beverage industry. And industry leaders are beginning to recognize the scope of the damage.

Utah Restaurant Association president and CEO Melva Sine told at least 452 Utah restaurants — nearly 10% of the state's total number — have closed permanently due to the pandemic.

Her organization tallied those numbers about two weeks ago in preparation for the Utah Legislature's sixth special session of the year, Sine said. The Utah Restaurant Association gets its figures by communicating with suppliers about which restaurants have stopped ordering.

Sine said Utah's restaurant industry is weathering the pandemic comparatively well, though. "It was expected to be anywhere from 25% to 40%," Sine said.

"Losing 10% is still heartbreaking and still will make the marketplace different than it has been prior to the pandemic, but we haven't seen it soar," she said. But the industry isn't out of the woods yet, Sine said — far from it. "It will soar if we continue this," she added, "if we don't get occupancy up in restaurants."

Most Utah restaurants are operating at about 35% to 40% capacity, she said.

"We were the first businesses closed — restaurants and bars," Sine said. "We're doing everything we can to create consumer confidence."

Utah restaurants were allowed to resume dine-in service, with added precautions, on May 1.

Sine said the industry has lost about $2.8 billion in revenue during the pandemic. She hopes for additional federal relief for her industry and other struggling businesses. "There are critical needs," she said.

According to the National Restaurant Association, in 2018 there were 5,264 eating and drinking place locations in Utah.

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Graham Dudley reports on politics, breaking news and more for A native Texan, Graham's work has previously appeared in the Brownwood (Texas) Bulletin and The Oklahoma Daily.


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