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How road construction is pushing Salt Lake City’s local businesses to the brink

Laziz Kitchen in downtown Salt Lake City

Road works – they’re an increasingly common sight around the valley. Wherever you encounter crawling traffic, it’s likely nearby cash registers are also running like molasses; for every hi-vis jacket toiling away, there’s someone in chef whites worriedly staring at their front door. While your own anxious wait may amount to some flustered eyeing of the fuel gauge – the off ramp for affected businesses can stretch for month upon month of uncertainty.

The westwardly moving 200 South work in downtown Salt Lake City is one of several major projects underway right now. For Jennifer Hannon, co-owner of Laziz Kitchen (pictured top) the redevelopment has been, “truly heart wrenching and stressful.” So much so that Hannon concedes the closure of the popular restaurant is a serious possibility.

Since replacing the old Curry Up Now spot with Laziz in the Summer of 2022, Hannon has faced a range of complications from the adjacent construction. Notwithstanding the obvious disruption to customer and staff access, the Mediterranean minded eatery cites everything from the re-routing of popular parade routes away from the business, porta-potty placements rendering outdoor dining a no go through to Jack hammering “loud enough that we had to close for days on end.”

Hannon confirms financial assistance was forthcoming, but the total of $3,000 received by Laziz Kitchen covers at most “one to two days of losses”. With the current construction project now past the one-year mark, Hannon points to basic math as the downtown location faces an increasingly precarious future. “The number is very high”, she explains, “we are seeing a 40% decrease in overall sales. With those numbers we can’t cover our base costs.” This just another pressure point on top of rising food costs, rents and staffing concerns that restaurants face.

Laziz Kitchen patio in downtown Salt Lake City
Laziz Kitchen patio on 200S in 2022

In his opinion piece for City Weekly, John Saltas lamented that [this], “particular stretch of 200 South looks like downtown Baghdad. Several businesses there have said they won’t survive or must move, which won’t matter a whit to city officials. They know that when construction ends, a new business will take those spaces over. It doesn’t matter to a city who pays the taxes, just that someone does. That’s when a city really suffers. When it loses its soul. When it doesn’t do enough to help the little guys on any single stretch of road. That’s an old tale on 200 South, which has had its soul ripped out multiple times.”

For Hannon, the construction upheaval is the worst kind of deja-vu. “Our original location has been in a similar boat”, she explains referring to extended road works in the Central 9th neighborhood. Laziz was one of the first businesses to take a bet on the nascent neighborhood that’s now bubbling over with creative bars and restaurants. “Although the area work is now complete, we have received negative reviews due to parking, construction and overall inability to access our restaurant which creates and belief and reputation that long outlasts the construction itself.” Emerging from the construction mire then is only half the battle. As others have seen, encouraging clients to revisit a formerly tricky location, is a challenge.

The booze-free bar Curiosity took to crowd funding this Summer to keep their doors open, raising a five figure sum in the process. Sadly that wasn’t enough, with the business ultimately folding over the past few days, citing the impact of construction as one of the key drivers in the decision.

Wasatch Brew Pub in Sugar House
Wasatch Brew Pub in Sugar House

Meanwhile across town in Sugar House, multiple major projects are also underway. KSL reported back in the Summer that, “crews are also still working on the project to improve Highland Drive from 2100 South to 2700 South in Sugar House. This section of a larger project for the road is still on pace to be completed in the fall”, but the reality on the ground looks more complex. Note: I am not a construction engineer but see below for some pictures I took during my own wander through the core of Sugar House last week. Pedestrian and bike traffic across 21st and Highland, is not something to be undertaken trivially at this time.

The Highland Drive work comes in addition to this project, that’s currently slated to run 2024-2025. Wasatch Brew Pub is arguably the most prominent tenant in the heart of the typically bustling neighborhood. Rick Seven of the company echoes sentiments of others I spoke to stating, “our sales have been impacted with construction, quite a bit this month over last year, it’s not a trend we are excited about.”

Seven continued, “during the week it affects us more.  Traffic gets backed up, there is noise and dust from when the construction crews are working.  Who wants to sit on a patio when the noise pollution is out of control and dirt and dust are flying everywhere.”

The project in Sugar House does seem to have officials working closely in hand with businesses. Seven tells me, “we met with officials from Salt Lake City before the construction began.  The Sugar House Chamber, who have been great helping businesses, like putting on Sugar House Rocks on every third Friday, had put up direction/free parking signs (with validation).  We have not been hit as bad as some due to the great support of our customers.  Pizza Volta next to us unfortunately went out of business two weeks ago.”

Construction at 2100 South on September 20th 2023
Construction at 2100 South on September 20th 2023
Construction at 2100 S on September 20th 2023
Construction at 2100 S on September 20th 2023

For his part Seven is pragmatic, “we understand the construction work needs to be done to prevent bigger problems in the future, but we are frustrated and would like to see more effort to help the businesses in the area. [The city] said they had learned a lot of lessons from the 300 West construction, and they promised us they would work with the construction company.  But we need more and better signage and more information distributed to the public about how to navigate the construction.”

In the interim, Seven has his own tips for those trying to access the area, “The secret is to drive East on 2100 S from 700 East and turn south on McClelland to get to the three hour free underground parking (with validation).  There is also one lane still available on Highland Dr. going south which takes you to the other entrance of the free underground parking.”

The Dough Miner - Ken Roderman
The Dough Miner – Ken Roderman

One business owner now eager to bounce back from the myriad challenges of major development is Ken Roderman, owner of The Dough Miner. The Granary District restaurant sits right along 300 West and endured double digit months of disruption as the reconstruction wrapped. The 300 West project was dubbed “the largest construction project the city has undertaken and was one of the most challenging”

“The day the first cone went up, our business dropped off 45%”, Roderman tells me. “Basically, it completely took away most of our early morning commuter traffic. This was not just a result of the lack of a road, but the fact we lost all our street parking, something that is never coming back. It got much worse during the peak, especially when they took out the sidewalk .We had several days where our business was off more than 90%. “

Roderman estimates the financial hit to his business as “somewhere between $35K and $45K dollars”. It will likely take us about a year fully financially recover from. We are now about 2 months post construction, and this last month our revenue was back up to what it was in February, the month before it all started.”

The Dough Miner - doughnuts
The Dough Miner – doughnuts

Even when the seeming worst is in the rear-view, Rodermen had one more challenge to contend with explaining, “a few days after [the 300 West work] was finally over, the city showed up and tore up the brand new street in front of the building and informed us they decided to put a bus stop in front of our front door. We had tables and chairs out there and UTA handed me a warning ticket to remove them immediately or pay a fine. So now instead of parking, we have a bus stop.”

Undeterred, Roderman has worked to reboot the business – expanding hours, updating parking, launching a new menu – as well as a private outdoor dining patio that should be ready to welcome guests in the next couple of weeks.

So what’s a vexed consumer supposed to do amidst all of this? One sure sign, where you see the ground being torn asunder, you’ll also find struggling businesses. Much like I advised spending your dining dollars thoughtfully during covid – act similarly here. Pull up a Google map and scan around for businesses you admire – those on 300 West, 900 South, 200 South, 2100 South and Highland Drive assuredly need some love. Your ability affording, the next time you’re considering somewhere to dine or drink, maybe head toward construction, not away. Someone’s livelihood most likely depends on it.

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Want to stay on top of the SLC food scene, minute by minute, dish by dish? Here are a few other places you should follow along:

  • Subscription – support the website and help us remain ad-free
  • Free newsletter – never miss a story and signup for our weekly Utah food news
  • Instagram – follow us here for a dish by dish look at what’s hot
  • Food talk group – chew the fat with other likeminded Utah foodies
  • Best of SLC 2024 – our ever updating list of what’s best in the Beehive



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2 thoughts on “How road construction is pushing Salt Lake City’s local businesses to the brink”

  1. Good article! I hope the powers-that-be will read it and give more thought to the local shops and restaurant that they are hurting when these construction projects go on and on. I try avoid construction areas whenever I’m choosing a restaurant or store. They are hazardous to drive in, and often there’s no parking. I imagine that the majority of people feel the same.

    1. Thanks Val! I recently read that the 21st work will be taking a pause (or similar) over the holidays to help businesses so that’s something. And I agree, I think most people avoid these big project sites which is understandable, but sadly we all know what that means for those in those areas 🙁

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