Some business owners leaving The Gateway cite issues with homeless population

SALT LAKE CITY -- At one time The Gateway was considered one of the most happening places to shop in Utah, but now the area is struggling to keep its stores and restaurants.

In the past six weeks, three more businesses have left the area, and at least two of them say it's because of the homeless population.

Jason's Deli and Wing Nutz have decided to close, while Gateway Bridal moved to a new location. All three were located on the corner right across the street from the Road Home.

"We had a lot of circumstances I felt, as a business owner, I shouldn't have to deal with, our staff and our customers should not have to be exposed to," said Nicole Thomas, owner of Gateway Bridal.

Thomas sold wedding dresses at The Gateway for eight years. She said the problems on Rio Grande slowly became her problems.

"People coming into our restroom using heroin," she said. "People would defecate near and around our building. Watching people have sex on the back lawn."

Thomas moved the business in late September. She said she just didn't feel safe.

"I bought all of my staff mace, and I bought them rape whistles," Thomas said. "I feel like everyone turned a blind eye to the Rio Grande area and what was really going on."

Thomas' old neighbor, Wing Nutz, closed on October 23rd after nearly five years in business. All that's left is a farewell letter on the door: "As you may know we have struggled with issues beyond our control and therefore, have chosen to move on."

Will Owens, Wing Nutz Owner, reiterated Thomas' concerns about the homeless population in the area.

"The overwhelming issue has always been the homeless shelters across the street and the issues with drugs and everything that that brings," Owens said.

Owens said business at the Gateway location had declined 25 percent over the last year.

"People are afraid to come to the restaurant," Owens said.

Long time Gateway visitors even said they feel hesitation when choosing to shop or eat in the area.

"I look at my own family, and I know how uncomfortable it is for my children, I know how uncomfortable it is for my wife," said Jeff McMurdie of Pleasant View.