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Friends Remember Legacy of Salt Lake Restaurateur John Williams

Andrea Smardon

The estranged husband of restaurateur, real estate developer, and LGBT advocate John Williams has been arrested on suspicion of murder and arson. Williams died in a house fire at his Salt Lake City home over the weekend. Friends and colleagues are still reeling from the loss of such an influential figure.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams has just arrived for a meeting at the Market Street Oyster Bar, where the historic New York Hotel used to be before John Williams and his business partners restored the building. McAdams says he comes here all the time.

“I think we’re all shocked, and I thought as I was driving here for this lunch appointment and thought it will just be different knowing that John’s hand isn’t guiding the ship,” McAdams says.  He describes William’s restaurants on Market Street as the heart of civic life for the county.

Scott Beck is President and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. He trained under John Williams in business management in 1987. Beck credits Williams for the vibrant downtown dining culture in Salt Lake City.

“The current state of our restaurant culture is going to be a legacy of John’s,” Beck says, but above all, he says John Williams served as an inspiration for him and the entire Utah hospitality industry.

“It was about this idea of being part of a community, and I think that is where John’s true genius comes into play – is that the buildings he chose to renovate, the way he treated people who came into his restaurant, who worked in his restaurant – it was much bigger than just getting a meal.”

John Williams will be remembered as a philanthropist, an art enthusiast, and a pioneer for the LGBT community. State Senator Jim Dabakis said in a statement, “The quiet bridges that John built between the emerging LGBT community and the Utah business world made this a better place for us all to live.”

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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