Do Bars and Social Distancing Mix?


A recent headline in The Salt Lake Tribune asks: “Some have reopened, some haven’t, but do bars and social distancing even mix?” Utah operators are finding out on the fly as most of the state is in the “yellow” (“low risk”) and “green” (“new normal”) phases of reopening.

Just like restaurants that reopened, bars there have removed tables and blocked off booths to ensure 6-foot social distancing requirements. Some have required guests to wear face coverings when not seated.

“We are suggesting things that are contrary to the very nature of their business,” said Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for Salt Lake County Health Department. “People go to bars and dance clubs to socialize with people outside of who they are living with. They don’t really lend themselves to social distancing.”

Kirk Bengtzen owns Twist, a bar in Salt Lake City – the only area of the state still in the “moderate” risk “orange” level. He’s taken other precautions not mandated by the state like temperature checks and hand sanitizing before patrons enter. “We’re going to follow this process indefinitely – or until we have a vaccine,” he said. “There’s just no reason not to do it.”

Bengtzen added that backlash over masks and other bar requirements has been minimal and not from the 20- and 30-something crowd. “It’s actually been from older people who feel like they can make their own decisions. They can – just not in my establishment.”


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