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SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City leaders and tourism officials playfully jabbed back at Golden State Warriors players who bemoaned the lack of nightlife in Utah, hoping to combat the predominantly Mormon state's reputation as a boring place where it's tough to get a drink.
The tourism agency in the state capital launched a new website and video Monday titled, "There's nothing to do in Salt Lake" that features people enjoying drinks and food at popular breweries, bars, restaurants and sporting venues. The words "no fun" and "no drinking" sarcastically flash across images in the video.
Scott Beck, president of Visit Salt Lake, sent a letter to the Warriors to accompany the video, saying the city can't wait to host the 2015 NBA champions as they face the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals this weekend.
"In case you do stumble across something to do while here in Salt Lake, all of our bartenders and servers are on notice to keep you up late!" Beck wrote.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski tweeted at the Warriors Monday that they seem "concerned about where to cry in your beer. Plenty of places. 1st drink's on me."
The campaign comes after some of the Warriors players talked about wishing they were playing the Clippers instead of the Jazz, mostly for the chance to have some time off in Los Angeles rather than Salt Lake City.
Andre Iguodala told ESPN that Utah can "lull you to sleep" and make you think, "Man, let's just get out of here.'" Matt Barnes said declaratively: "There's no nightlife in Utah."
Jazz forward Joe Ingles, an Australian who has played in Utah for the last three seasons, jokingly suggested that Warriors players rent a jet to fly to LA or use his car to drive to Las Vegas.
Tourism officials are used to dealing with the perception that Utah is a dull, quiet state where the only thing to do is ski, hike or visit family-friendly entertainment options tailored for kids. The reputation is based largely on the influence of the Mormon church, which teaches its members to abstain from drinking alcohol.
"It was a little bit of deja vu," Beck said Tuesday, laughing about when he read the Warriors' comments. "It was like, 'Oh no, not again' and then, 'Wait a minute, this is an opportunity.'"
Beck's team then created the website, produced the video and rolled out a social media plan.
"Everybody knows we have great red rock and everybody knows we have great snow, but they don't know we have this incredible urban core," Beck said.
Several Salt Lake City residents scoffed at the opposing team's comments.
"The Warriors were misinformed," said Welby Evangelista, 46, who lives in Salt Lake City. "This is a town that has many things to offer ... if you are looking for a bar, there's 30 bars around us. You just have to look."
Beck said his office is discussing options with Jazz officials about possible events over the weekend to have more fun with the Warriors.
"We're floating around some really good ideas," Beck said.