Utah Restaurants: If You’re Not Driving, Spend Your Money Somewhere Else

Restaurants in Salt Lake City are winning their battle to keep people without cars from ordering at drive-thru windows.

Salt Lake City restaurants banded together to prevent customers without cars from purchasing products through drive-thru windows. Photo: WIkipedia
Salt Lake City restaurants banded together to prevent customers without cars from purchasing products through drive-thru windows. Photo: Wikipedia

Lawmakers in Salt Lake City had passed a law mandating access to drive-thru windows for people walking and biking. Drive-thrus often stay open later than the indoor restaurant, and serve customers faster.

The law was met with a major lobbying effort by the Utah Restaurants Association, which apparently feared it would leave them open to lawsuits, according to the trade publication Associations Now.

“We cannot mix bikes and pedestrians with vehicles in our service lanes,” URA CEO Melva Sine told the National Restaurant Association in August. “What if someone slips or gets run over? The city doesn’t get sued, the restaurant gets sued. Restaurant owners need the flexibility to manage their own risk, just like the city manages its own risk.”

State legislation overruling the city law was introduced by Rep. Johnny Anderson, a Republican representing Taylorsville, a Salt Lake City suburb. The bill has cleared the legislature but the governor could still choose to veto it, according to Associations Now.

It says something about the system we’ve designed when it’s perceived to be so dangerous that business associations lobby to prevent people from buying their stuff.

  • ladyfleur

    Their argument is absurd. Like people walking or biking in the parking lot can’t get hit or trip? You’re a lot better off walking in a drive-thru chute where cars are moving 5 mph than in the parking lot.

  • J Wake

    In a McD’s I visit weekly there is no access that doesn’t require you to walk in part of the drive-in lane. A law like this would make any access to the building illegal, since every motorist becomes a pedestrian once they leave their car.

  • As a Salt Lake City resident and former employee of the Utah Legislature, I can shed more light on this. It’s not just about lobbying by the Utah Restaurants Association or hostility towards people biking or walking. It’s also about Salt Lake City being a relatively liberal city located in a state with an extremely conservative state legislature. Each legislative session, the conservatives dominating the Utah Legislature feel the need to remind the mayor, city council, and residents of Salt Lake City that the Utah Legislature has the power to overrule local autonomy — even though the Utah Legislature constantly complains about the federal government overstepping its bounds and interfering in state matters. Hypocrisy abounds in the Utah Legislature.

  • Alicia

    I’m pretty sure the reason (or at least one of the reasons) chains don’t like accomodating bikes in the drive-thru lines is because their system is set up to be triggered by the weight of a car, and it costs extra money to develop systems that can accomodate bikes as well.

    There’s an independent coffee shop near me with drive-up service, and they don’t have any problem with serving me when I come to the window.

  • Robbie

    The SLC Council could still make restaurants serve people walking and biking, or at least stay open indoors if the “exterior service window” (I refuse to call it a “drive-through”) is open. Zoning. Still under local control. Or simply say that all exterior service windows must serve all legal road users. That will at least get bicyclists in the line.

    And I have yet to find an insurance executive or underwriter that will show me a policy that states that they cannot serve people not in a car. That is the other excuse I have heard from fast-food restaurants and banks (!) about why they can’t accommodate non-motorized traffic.

  • Robbie

    All they have to do is add a push-button to the ordering/menu panel. Not that tough.

  • Cherokee Schill

    “What if someone slips or gets run over? The city doesn’t get sued, the restaurant gets sued.”
    I’m pretty sure it’s the driver of the vehicle that gets sued. Just saying.
    As for slip and fall. I’m pretty sure that could happen in the restaurant just as easily.

  • Tammie Heazlit

    I used to do this frequently when I lived there. It’s such a bike friendly city (for the most part) that it was a common practice. Seems foolish and lacking insight.

  • Bicycle_Boy

    For the past two years I’ve been boycotting restaurants that have drive-up windows.

  • I’m sorry, are these businesses for real arguing against serving customers? They all deserve to go bankrupt! As a pedestrian/cyclist, I might side the nay side here, I’d rather a restaurant be forced to keep their kitchen open, even if this limits the number of restaurants I can access late at night, but for businesses to actively try to prevent people from frequenting their businesses, that is beyond insane.

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