Even a meanie like me has to be nice once in a while. I'm not being a meanie today, even if some people deserve it. If you've been reading here, you know who they are, notably, but not limited to Gov. Gary Herbert, Governor-elect Spencer Cox, Senator Mike Lee and, of course, the head Mr. Weasel, Rep. Chris "Captain" Stewart. Through the 2020 year of COVID-19, equality protests, QAnon, every Trumpian drama imaginable, failed national and local economics and another divisive election, those four rose to the top of nearly every bad-boy hit list.
For this year's Best of Utah issue, we might have added another ballot question of "Who is Utah's Best Snidely Whiplash?" It would have been one of those four, most certainly. We already have a Worst Utahn voted upon by our readers, so look for that one as you turn these pages. I won't reveal him here (aren't we pleased to live in a state where the Worst Utahn has never been a female? Well ... maybe Enid Greene got that award years ago; if so, I hereby retract it).
This year's Best of Utah is on newsprint, the same as we were for about 27 of our previous issues. A few years ago, we converted Best of Utah into a glossy magazine format to great success. We had some beautiful issues that were well received by merchants and readers. But given that COVID-19 has almost decimated the entire hospitality category of Utah business, it simply would have been a crazy ego stroke to publish as a glossy. It was just too expensive for all of us. So, take good care of this issue in your hands. You are one of 30,000 persons to have a copy, so it's like a treasure, right? It will hold up just fine on your coffee table, and the info within is just as valuable as ever, maybe even more so.
The reason being that nearly all of the advertisers and Best of Utah winners within are not only the cream of the Utah crop, they are the local merchants and businesses that, come hell or highwater, have not yet given up to COVID. They've put up with all imaginable barriers for over eight long months—closures, confusion, panic, lack of government support and leadership, lack of resources, fear of the unknown. They survived the long summer of quiet COVID denial, of being taunted by anti-maskers, of watching not just family, but also employees and customers take ill to COVID spread. They've all but begged for deaf Utah state leaders to help them. Shamefully, there were only crickets in response.
Of the missing in action, they primarily fall into three categories: The first are those who have closed their doors for good. It's estimated that in some cities, 30-50% of all restaurants and clubs will not survive this virus—actually at this point, it is no longer the virus they fear, but a Utah government that just sends merry wishes to them. While the closure percentage is not yet that high in Utah, it may climb there, especially if certain Utahns continue to act like giant assholes regarding masks with their "me first" behavior exacerbating viral community spread. Among those whom we will sorely miss due to closure include Canella's, Red Butte Café, Martine Café, Murphy's, Alamexo, Barrio, Toro Toro and many more. Others like Mazza are streamlining their operations and closing secondary locations (in 9th and 9th and Sandy. But their 15th East location remains open—good for you, Ali!).
There is a second cluster of businesses yet to reopen or that remain open only for take-out or curbside. One of our all-time favorites, The Bayou, remains in that latter category. You could say these places of business are homes to giant hearts, because nearly all of them could possibly open, but proprietors have chosen not to expose their employees to COVID-19 by opening their doors. Obviously not everyone is capable of that, but for those that are doing this, our tip of the hat is to you.
A third cluster comprises concerts and entertainment. Unless you Bozo-ed down to Cedar City for the Colin Raye concert a few months ago, or if you didn't make it to one of the Young/Dumb (emphasis on the "dumb") shows in Utah County, you've likely not seen a live concert since February or March. Who among us has not missed a great show at The State Room, Urban Lounge, USANA, The Depot or the Commonwealth? Or a show at the Eccles Theater or Capitol Theatre? The live performing arts categories are at near zero revenues for months now. We want them back. For them to return, the knuckleheads need to buckle up.
As you turn these pages, please make a note to support everyone that you possibly can. If not now, then later—and when later comes, support them forever. Here's your reward if you do not: A life of ordering from GrubHub. Go ahead, eat at your own kitchen table with FOX, CNN or Real Housewives of Salt Lake City offering you a pale background substitute for the romantic music that played when you first mentally disrobed your dining partner over a plate of garlic-butter baked salmon, sidled by a heaping pile of couscous. And you'll need to clean your own dishes.
We want to be normal again. We must be for the sake of our sanity. Just more than eight months in with maybe eight more to go, but a vaccine beckons, and people are slowly becoming less dumb. To be normal isn't just to yearn but to celebrate. Mask up and celebrate with us the Best of Utah 2020.
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