ST. GEORGE — In the state’s evolving response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday that all restaurants and bars in the state are to suspend dine-in operations for the next two weeks.
As a measure of relief for businesses that will be adversely affected during this time, state officials also announced that businesses impacted by the closure can apply for low-interest business loans through the Small Business Administration.
Suspension of dine-in operations
The suspension of dine-in operations goes into effect on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., according to a press release from the Governor’s Office.
During this period, restaurants and other food service entities can continue to offer curbside, drive-through, pick up and delivery options. The order will be reassessed at the end of this two-week period.
“With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in our communities, we must take quick action to adjust our daily lives and limit the spread of the virus,” Herbert said in the release. “We have not made this decision lightly. I know this will disrupt lives and cost jobs, and for that, I’m very sorry. Still, I’m convinced this will save many lives, and I’m also convinced that Utahns will step up to help each other and we’ll get through this together.”
The governor also encourages Utahns to support local businesses at this time “in whatever way they can” within the guidelines set by the state.
The decision to suspend dine-in operations goes along with strong recommendations made by President Donald Trump Monday that people across the nation meet in groups of no more than 10 individuals.
Specifics of the governor’s order include:
- Curbside take-out and drive-through food service (in addition to pick up service as noted above) is permitted. Where possible, online (e.g., Venmo, Squarecash, Google Pay, Apple Pay) and telephonic credit card transactions are strongly encouraged. Cash payments are strongly discouraged. Employees who handle cash or credit cards shall use cleansing measures between each transaction, including using any best practices issued by the department. Employees who handle cash or credit cards may not participate in food preparation, handling, or delivery.
- Third-party delivery service (e.g., Uber Eats and DoorDash) is permitted. Employees of such services shall avoid physical contact with any customer. Employees of such services may not engage in any delivery services if the employee presents any symptoms of illness consistent with COVID-19. Employees of such services shall use cleansing measures between each transaction, including using any best practices issued by the department.
- Management of food service establishments shall ensure, on a daily basis and at the beginning of each shift, that no employee who presents any symptom of illness consistent with COVID-19 will be permitted to work.
The order, which also includes guidelines for businesses in general, can be viewed in its entirety here.
Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox, who chairs the Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force, stressed that Utah has a full-time team focusing on building Utah’s capacity to test for COVID-19.
“Until we have the ability to test widely and institute targeted isolation procedures, we must take every necessary precaution to limit the spread of the virus,” Cox said in the release. “These preventative measures will help reduce the burden on our medical system and save lives.”
Small business loans
Following a meeting of the Washington County Commission Tuesday, Commissioner Victor Iverson said one of the steps for the county following coordinating with the county’s municipalities on the coronavirus issue is addressing the impact to local business.
“The next step is identifying businesses that have been so impacted,” Iverson said. “As monies become available, through some the stimulus money if you will, or some other means, we want to make sure we’re able get that out to our businesses impacted by this.”
Shortly before the governor announced restrictions on restaurants, bars and similar businesses, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced that Utah businesses are eligible to apply to small business loans from the Small Business Administration as a way to help business owners weather the impact.
“We recognize this loan program will not solve all of today’s economic challenges, but it will serve as a useful tool for businesses affected by COVID-19,” says Ryan Starks, managing director of business services at GOED. “Small business owners are the backbone of Utah’s economy, and these available loans demonstrate how vital they are.”
Terms of the SBA loans are as follows:
- 3.75% interest rate for small businesses.
- 2.75% interest rate for nonprofits.
- Loan amounts up to $2 million per entity.
- Repayment terms up to 30 years.
Businesses are encouraged to apply for small business loans at the Small Business Administration website.
“During difficult times, Utahns do what we do best, support each other,” said Val Hale, GOED’s executive director. “With the help of their customers and this important assistance from the SBA, our business owners will adapt, improvise and overcome COVID-19’s economic challenges.”
Utah business owners may find the following resources helpful:
- GOED’s Business Services webpage
- Coronavirus information on utah.gov
- Utah Department of Workforce Services’ coronavirus webpage
- Salt Lake Chamber’s coronavirus webpage
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