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Restaurant owners preparing to expand dine-in options

A worker at Oakwood Grill in Draper prepares food on Dec. 8, 2020. Owner Michael McHenry says they’ve been filling 30-40 percent of their total occupancy since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (PHOTO: KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — Restaurant owners along the Wasatch Front appear to have mixed feelings about a change in COVID-19 guidelines.

Changes coming to your favorite restaurant?

Many Utah restaurant owners say they are preparing to expand their dine-in operations. It comes as six counties in the state have been officially moved to the “moderate” transmission phase for the virus. Those counties are Salt Lake, Cache, Davis, Grand, Sanpete and Wasatch.

The move to the “moderate” phase means there are no limits on the size of gatherings. Also, recently passed legislation will remove the statewide mask mandate by April 10.

David Gonzalez, the owner of Restaurant Morelia in Murray, said he’s excited about the potential for more business, although he doesn’t want it to come at the expense of anyone’s safety.

“I’m a little bit leery about re-opening, to tell you the truth,” he told KSL News Radio’s Dave & Dujanovic Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time, I’m a little bit afraid of it. I’m afraid for my staff. The whole thing … it’s a whole new world.”

According to Gonzalez, the restaurant has lost over half its staff in the past year due to declining business. 

“From 36 employees a year ago, we’re down to 16,” he explained. 

Looking to get business back

In November, the restaurant posted on Instagram, telling customers it was on the brink of closing permanently if business didn’t pick back up. Within a day, they shared a video of cars lined up outside and stretching along the parking lot. 


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A post shared by Restaurant Morelia (@restaurant.morelia)

While Gonzalez is conflicted about the expanded dining opportunities, some restaurant owners are downright upset.

Caputo’s Market in Salt Lake City tweeted a video Monday afternoon of “Matt Caputo on his soapbox.”

In the video, Caputo calls it “outrageous” that lawmakers have agreed to drop the statewide mask mandate by April 10.