5 Salt Lake City bars, establishments temporarily closed for violating Utah's COVID-19 health order

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SALT LAKE CITY — Five downtown establishments were shut down by the Salt Lake County Health Department Saturday for violations of Utah's COVID-19 health order and three other establishments received warnings for violations, officials confirmed Monday.

Echo (134 W. Pierpont Avenue), Karma (122 W. Pierpont Avenue), Lake Effect (155 W. 200 South) and Twist (32 W. Exchange Place) were four bars temporarily closed by the health department Saturday. The department also shut down an establishment located at 60 W. Market Street, where the New Yorker restaurant previously was.

Salt Lake County Health Department said all five failed to meet at least one of the three key provisions of the state's COVID-19 public health order. That includes requiring every employee and contractor to wear a face covering while at work, requiring patrons who enter an establishment to wear a face covering (including entrance and exit areas and requiring patrons to be at least 6 feet apart (including entrance and exit areas).

Lake Effect and Twist have since been allowed to reopen; the three others remain temporarily closed, said Salt Lake County Health Department spokesperson Nicholas Rupp.

In an email, Rupp explained all establishments can reopen once the health department approves written plans submitted by the individual businesses in regard to how they plan to function with health code standards for COVID-19 enforced. Lake Effect and Twist were allowed to continue business after their plans were approved.

Echo, Lake Effect and Twist had previously received warnings for not meeting code set up by the state or the county health department, according to Rupp. He added the health department had also temporarily shut down Echo last September for violations related to COVID-19 health codes.

Twist Bar & Bistro owner Kirk Bengtzen told KSL TV that he was informed that the bar's tables were too close together and not at least 10 feet apart, adding that he was never told this before during previous inspections.

"I think the biggest thing is just how frustrating it was. If it was such an issue that it needs to be on the news and my bar's name needs to be publicized that we violated something, why did they let us stay in business? Why did they not just say, fix this now or we're going to shut you down and kick everybody out," he said. "They didn't even do that. They just said, 'no big deal; stay open until 2 and then get this turned in tomorrow.' Alright."

Twist was one of 10 bars that filed a lawsuit against the state in December over a 10 p.m. curfew that then-Gov. Gary Herbert had issued. Bengtzen said he didn't know if Twist's temporary closure was in any way tied to that previous lawsuit.

Echo ownership confirmed that the county health department informed them of their closure tied to COVID-19 guidelines, as well.

"We are working with the health department to implement a viable solution to the 'one size fits all' restrictions that are being enforced on businesses in our industry," Echo ownership said in a statement to KSL. "We hope to come up with a solution that allows our business to remain open and our staff to keep their jobs and feed their families."

In addition to the businesses temporarily closed Saturday, the county health department issued written warnings to three other establishments Saturday, Rupp said. Those three were London Belle (321 S. Main), Soundwell (149 W. 200 South) and Wasted Space (342 S. South State).

The current health order, which went into effect last month, is currently set to expire Feb. 22 unless it is modified, amended or suspended.

Contributing: Morgan Wolfe, KSL TV

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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.


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