What changes for restaurants and theaters as we shift from “orange to yellow?”

May 15, 2020, 7:47 PM
What changes for restaurants and theaters as we shift from orange to yellow...
(Entrance to the Megaplex Theater at the Valley Fair Mall. Credit: Paul Nelson)
(Entrance to the Megaplex Theater at the Valley Fair Mall. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE COUNTY – Starting tomorrow, many portions of the state are moving from orange to yellow, as restrictions over COVID-19 are being relaxed.  However, for restaurant and theater owners, are things really changing that much? 


Inside the recently re-opened Gracie’s Bar in downtown Salt Lake City, things look vastly different than before the shutdown.  Not only are the tables a lot further apart, but they don’t have hard copies of menus to give their patrons.  Customers can see the menus by scanning a QR code on their phones.

With risk levels going from “moderate risk” to “low risk,” what’s changing for owner Deno Dakis?  In his words, nothing.  He says the safety guidelines are the exact same for restaurant owners, so they’ll still have to check their employees for symptoms before each shift, employees will still have to cover their faces and owners will still be encouraged to use contactless payment, if possible.

(Screengrab from the state’s phased health guidelines. On the left are the requirements during a “moderate” risk. On the right, rules during a “low” risk.)

Dakis says he had to fight to have live music back in his restaurant.  However, they’re only allowed to have musical acts small enough to allow for six feet of distance between the musicians. 

“The tables and patrons have to be six feet away from the band.  The customers can’t stand up to watch the band.  They can’t dance.  They have to stay seated and just enjoy the music,” he says.

This week, he had a solo musician on stage and says it was a huge hit with the customers who haven’t heard live music in a long time.


Officials with Megaplex Theaters say it’s still far too early to go back to a traditional way of doing business, but they’re trying to see if they can slowly bring customers back.  Starting Friday, they’re allowing groups and families to reserve theaters for private screenings at four of their locations, namely St. George, Lehi, South Jordan and Centerville.  If conditions continue to improve, management will look into bringing back a more traditional business model where the theater plans show times and customers decide which one they want to see.

Megaplex Theaters President Blake Andersen says they’re also finding new ways to deliver concessions and keep enough space between groups.

Andersen says, “We have software developed that will allow individuals, couples or families who choose their reserve seats together, the seats around them will automatically be blocked.”


There are big changes for live theater managers as we shift from orange to yellow, but Hale Center Theater Executive Director Mark Dietlein says they really aren’t significant enough to allow them to resume operations.  They’re allowed to have more than 50 people inside, but he says they still have to allow for six feet of distance between groups.

“That still only allows us to be at about 1/3 capacity.  It still doesn’t make sense to perform because we would actually be losing money,” Dietlein says.

However, as we shift from orange to yellow the company is allowed to resume rehearsals now that groups can have up to 50 people.  Dietlein says this is great, since they had to halt rehearsals on their production of Mary Poppins and they need more time to practice.

He says, “We’ve still got, for example with Mary Poppins, about another four weeks of rehearsal.”

During the shutdown, their technical crews have been dressing up mannequins and having them fly around the stage to make sure all of their equipment was working.


Related articles:

Salt Lake County mayor’s request to stay in the “orange” phase denied

Thousands of people want to be exposed to COVID-19 for science

Science Says: How risky is that virus? Your mind may mislead

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What changes for restaurants and theaters as we shift from “orange to yellow?”