NBA teams traveling to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Jazz this season won’t be able to eat at just any Utah restaurant.
The league worked with the players association to come up with a list of at least three approved restaurants in each NBA city, as a way to keep players from contracting the coronavirus during the 2020-21 season that is now underway.
Restaurants making the list in Salt Lake City are Red Iguana, Manoli’s and Valter’s Osteria — all located close to the Vivint Smart Home Arena downtown and ones that players have frequented in the past.
Why, at Valter’s Italian restaurant, the exterior wall on the west side of the building features a giant Jazz-themed mural.
The Red Iguana, known for its “killer” Mexican food, has historically been a favorite eatery for bands and musicians, but NBA players are regulars as well, said owner Lucy Cardenas. “We’ve had a history of feeding the teams and are happy and humbled that they love us and want to come eat with us.”
That’s especially true during the pandemic, she added, when seating has been cut by almost 50% to ensure proper social distancing.
Manoli Katsanevas said many of the international players from the Jazz — both past and present — have dined on a regular basis at his Greek restaurant.
Boris Diaw started coming several years ago, he said, and then brought along Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio.
Katsanevas said his restaurant has also catered team meals on several occasions.
“We’ve been feeding them for awhile,” he said, so getting selected for the NBA list, “happened organically.”
In addition to distanced tables and other health protocols, when serving the NBA teams, restaurant employees must wear masks and faceguards, Katsanevas said. The restaurant also must limit the number of employees interacting with the team members and it must have a separate entrance and exit to limit exposure to the restaurant staff and other diners.
Katsanevas understands the need for the additional protocols, he said, as “there’s millions of dollars on the line.”
And what about when teams are at home?
According to the NBA guidelines, personnel are prohibited from going to bars, lounges or clubs, from attending live entertainment or sports events, from using gyms, spas or pools, or from participating in social gatherings with more than 15 people.