Farm to Fool | Private Eye | Salt Lake City Weekly

Farm to Fool 

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One of the favorite games to play on social media these days is to ask the question: "Have you been to a restaurant for a sit-down meal since COVID-19?" The overwhelming answer is "Nope." Nada. Zip. Zilch. That's quite a reversal since the early days of the coronavirus when people from here to Clive, Utah, proclaimed their deep love for local restaurants and swore to Crom that they would never forsake them. To show their love and support, those persons took to ordering takeout from their favorite eateries. Then they stopped. Love only goes so far if it involves spilt gravy into the cup holders of the car console.

It didn't take long for folks to pine a little less for driving their favorite osso buco home in a paper sack and trading that experience for their favorite backyard burger. For them, going out to eat is just not as important to those folks as it once was.

I'm not one of those. I've found a good number of places I'm quite comfortable entering for a meal or a cocktail. They're all places that have sanitizer at the ready, and the staff is all masked up as are the customers, barring when they are sliding a piece of bacon into their mouths. Many places have outdoor patios and that makes my comfort level increase. I figure if I'm going to catch the virus, I might as well catch it behind a cold beer or neat whiskey. I avoid grocery stores, however, as well as house parties, mouth-breather rallies and church.

I've been to at least 20 places in answer to the query whether I've been out at all since COVID-19. But one person is not enough, and 20 places are not enough. This past week came the news that 59 liquor-license holders had but hours to renew their licenses or lose them. I've not seen a report yet as to which operations will yield their liquor operations, but one that is very dear to us came too close for comfort. Businesses had until 5 p.m. on Aug. 31 to submit their liquor license and payment to renew their liquor licenses. The State Room, Salt Lake's primo small-concert venue, got to the DABC office after the deadline and all seemed lost. However, an employee working after hours accepted the paperwork allowing the State Room to sell liquor once again.

But, there's a catch. The State Room and all other similar venues haven't even held a concert since early March. There are a couple clubs where one might see live bands—places that have gone above and beyond when it comes to social distancing—but there has not been a concert per se in Salt Lake in months. Doesn't it seem odd that a venue that cannot even be open must pay for a liquor license it can't benefit from? It does to me. All the state had to do was quit bragging for 15 minutes about the record liquor-sales year it is having, have a short powwow and grant a hall pass to operations like the State Room so that they need not reapply at this time. The government basically shut them down, and the government basically has done little to help them since. Payouts would be nice, but so would rent relief, license and fee relief, or a simple "We've got your back" relief. Something!

C'mon, Gov. Herbert. Cut these guys some slack. Give them an abeyance of some type. Stop treating this industry like it is your ugly relative. Let them sell drinks to-go—not in open containers, but pre-mixed to take to their homes so they have a fighting chance to stay alive during this pandemic. At McDonald's, one can get a Coke to go with the burger. Why not the specialty cocktail fixings from a club or restaurant?

I understand why Herbert doesn't care. He never paid a moment's heed to hospitality. But, that Cox fellow, the guy considered to be a shoo-in to become our next governor—we never hear from him, either—not a peep about the singular industry that notably changed Utah for the better. The Cox platform is to be likeable. Trouble is, Cox is revealing himself to be one and the same with the folks who made a mess of the hospitality industry from the start. Even his Twitter entourage is starting to see through his "nice guy" veneer. They say he's been a bird of a feather since the start.

San Francisco just announced that 100 restaurants are now permanently closed in that city. Many more have not reopened—same as here. Estimates are that 30 percent of San Francisco restaurants will close due to COVID-19, meaning another1,200 will close if true. Can Utah withstand that kind of industry loss? We may never know because so far, Spencer Cox is busy taking Twitter pictures of cows down in his bailiwick of Central Utah. Great. You'd think a guy from there would understand the concept of farm to table falls apart if there are no tables to serve the farm food from.

Cox has no COVID-19 or mask plan, and he's silent on finding ways to help important cultural venues like the State Room—or cafes like the closed Canella's or clubs like the closed Murphy's. That's why I'm voting for the Democrat Chris Peterson. He's not going to turn a blind eye to hospitality and tourism. COVID-19 will end. When it does, we need our lives back, and we need our favorite places to go back to. We don't need Twitter pictures of cows. We need someone who will fight for the hospitality industry.

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About The Author

John Saltas

John Saltas

John Saltas, Utah native and journalism/mass communication graduate from the University of Utah, founded City Weekly as a small newsletter in 1984. He served as the newspaper's first editor and publisher and now, as founder and executive editor, he contributes a column under the banner of Private Eye, (the original... more

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