‘Day Without Immigrants’ hits home in Park City
Businesses express support for immigrant workers
February 17, 2017
Some Park City establishments — and their patrons — on Thursday got a glimpse of what it would be like without the immigrants who help make the town a world-class resort destination.
Employees of multiple businesses in the area participated in the nationwide "Day Without Immigrants" movement, an effort in which immigrants from all around the country stayed home from work to show President Trump's administration how important their contributions are to America.
Several Park City businesses voiced support for the effort, including Wasatch Brewery, where general manager Doug Lavasseur said about 15 employees didn't attend work Thursday. It was difficult for the brew pub to find other employees to work, and affected operations, but Lavasseur supported the protest. His many immigrant employees, he said, are "part of the family."
"Ninety percent of our kitchen staff are immigrants," he said. "They are the backbone, I would say, of the restaurant. We deal with front of house and customer service, but they're the guys that are cranking out the food and putting out a really good product. We rely on them pretty heavily."
He added that the brew pub and many of its employees have grown increasingly concerned about the rhetoric coming from the Trump administration, which has been seen as hostile toward immigrants.
"We don't know how it's going to play out moving forward, if (our employees) are going to be in any jeopardy or if they're going to be in the clear," he said, adding that all the brew pub's immigrant employees are legal residents. "As of now, we're just supporting our team and their feelings and going from there.
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"Some of them have family members here, and it's a situation where, even though it might not affect them, it might affect the people nearest and dearest to them," he added. "So there's some concern across the board."
Another business affected was Silver Star Cafe, which operated Thursday with a pared-down menu because other staff members filled in for those participating in the protest. The restaurant posted on its Facebook page a message embracing immigrants.
"Silver Star Cafe fully supports our talented team members who will be participating in tomorrow’s Day Without Immigrants protest," the message read. "We have an obligation to support all staff members, those who want to protest, and those who want to work."
Other restaurants, such as Vessel Kitchen and El Chubasco, remained closed for the day in a show of solidarity with Day Without Immigrants participants.
"Our team members are the face of our young brand, from the front lines to the kitchen — they're the heart and soul of Vessel and have had an immense impact on our successes since the day we opened our doors," read a statement on Vessel's Facebook page. "We believe in our employees' rights to stand up for what they believe in and our closure is merely a statement of the solidarity of our Vessel Kitchen family."
Jeff Schwartz, owner of El Chubasco, said in an interview that it was important for the restaurant to stand alongside Park City's immigrants. He said people need to speak up about what they believe in and that "there's no more sitting down and just waiting for things to happen."
Every company in Park City, from large corporations to small mom and pops, should be concerned because immigrants are an "integral part of the fabric of Park City, as well as the United States," Schwartz said.
He added that he is hopeful a powerful message reverberated throughout the country Thursday during the nationwide demonstrations.
"It sounds corny, but in its most basic form, this country is a country of immigrants," he said. "My family came over as immigrants at the turn of the 19th century. Every single person's family came over as immigrants and we can't just one day say, 'Oh, we're turning off the water spout on that.' We can't be like, 'We're not doing that anymore.' That's not what this country was founded upon."
Andy Beerman, a Park City councilor who owns and operates the Treasure Mountain Inn, said a handful of his employees wanted to take the day off but weren't able to get enough participation for a more organized protest, so they ended up working their shifts.
Nonetheless, he would have backed them.
"We are sympathetic to their plight and supportive," he said.