Restaurants reopen dining rooms in Utah, but, some owners worry about patrons returning

May 1, 2020, 7:38 PM | Updated: 7:40 pm
Restaurants reopen dining rooms in Utah, but, some owners worry about patrons returning coronavirus...
(Sean Miller, owner of The Park Cafe, and his girlfriend, Tina Chante, preparing to open their Salt Lake restaurant. Credit: Spenser Heaps, KSL, April 28, 2020)
(Sean Miller, owner of The Park Cafe, and his girlfriend, Tina Chante, preparing to open their Salt Lake restaurant. Credit: Spenser Heaps, KSL, April 28, 2020)

WEST VALLEY CITY – It’s a great day for some restauranteurs who are able to reopen their dining rooms after COVID-19 concerns forced them to shut down.  However, as these restaurants reopen their dining rooms, some of them don’t expect a flood of customers to come back soon, if at all.

There didn’t seem to be a “lunch rush” at very many restaurants in West Valley.  For example, only a couple of people were inside Tonkotsu Ramen Bar shortly after the doors opened.  Still, the few who did show up say they couldn’t wait to come back.  One man tells KSL he didn’t expect to miss dining out as much as he did.

He says, “It sounds a little weird, but I felt empty.”

Co-Owner Nghia Tran oversees the Shabu-Shabu portion of the restaurant.  He says he’ll take all of the needed precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.  He bought new laminated menus that he can clean more often.  He has hand sanitizer and wipes ready for when customers ask for them.  Plus, he’s clearing out some of the clutter in his floor space.

“I’m taking out chairs.  I’m taking out half the barstools to make sure we’re all doing social distancing.  I’m probably going to reduces seating in the booths by half,” he says.

This shutdown has been overwhelming for Tran, not just financially, but emotionally.  He was under tremendous strain from a lack of income, and his PPP funding didn’t arrive until a day before he reopened.

“Honestly, I’m devastated.  I’m feeling major depression.  It has been very tough.  Even before the shutdown, starting in January, I saw my sales start to go down,” Tran says.  “I’m just trying to get by and get through.  It’s tough times.”

Naturally, as their restaurants reopen their dining rooms, not every restaurant owner feels ready  Workers at The Break Sports Grill in West Valley told KSL they were going to continue delivering food curbside.  Also, Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper will stay closed until they reconfigure their kitchen to give workers enough space.  Officials with Joe’s Crab Shack in Salt Lake City say they’ll limit their in-dining capacity to 25 percent.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall says several business owners would rather stay closed.

Meanwhile, Tran has another thing to worry about.  He wonders if the shutdown hasn’t changed the restaurant industry, forever.

“Even after the shutdown, I think everyone is just going to stay home.  A lot of people stay home from work, now,” he says.



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How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus 


COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading: 

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.  
  • Don’t touch your face. 
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet) 
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.) 
  • Get a flu shot. 

Resources for more information: 



State of Utah: 

Utah State Board of Education 

Utah Hospital Association 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707 

National Links 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization 

Cases in the United States 





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Restaurants reopen dining rooms in Utah, but, some owners worry about patrons returning