Virus Outbreak Arizona Small Business Struggles

A lone customer gets a carry out lunch from Chase's Diner April 23, 2020, in Chandler, Ariz. Owner Skip Chase maintained all his employees and raised their hourly pay to compensate for lost tips after his business went to carry-out only in compliance with Arizona's COVID-19, Coronavirus mandates. As of April 23, Chase's had lost over $20,000 since closing their in-house seating area in March and Chase had spent more than $9,000 in personal money to supplement his staff's payroll in an effort to remain open.

(The Center Square) – Arizona restaurants reopened their dining areas Monday, a step in Gov. Doug Ducey’s process of “turning up the light” on the state’s economy. 

The governor’s executive order marked May 11 for restaurants to resume dine-in services, if they want to, to patrons while still maintaining social distancing and sanitation practices. He made the announcement last Monday, highlighting the promising data on COVID-19 cases in the state slowing.

At OSO Brewery in Gilbert, customers lined up at the bar Monday afternoon and sat in every other dining room table. In North Scottsdale, Cien Agaves had new clear plastic dividers between booths as mask-clad staff offered digital menus to customers. 

The hostess said they had customers in and out most of the day and there was no wait. 

Celeste, one of the hostesses at Dominick’s Steakhouse in Kierland Commons in Scottsdale, said they had been busy since they opened at four o'clock, mainly due to their reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. 

“We’ve reduced our tables and made time between seatings to adhere to the new rules,” she said.

While many restaurants have taken the opportunity to seat customers for the first time in weeks, others don’t feel that it’s safe to do so yet. 

A group of business owners, mainly based in Tucson, signed onto an open letter to the public saying they were going to follow the advice of epidemiologists and others in the public health community in keeping closed for now. 

“We feel proceeding incautiously with the reopening of businesses will worsen human suffering in our communities and prolong the negative impact this pandemic is having on small businesses & the economy,” the group, dubbing themselves “Too Soon Arizona,” said.

“Some of our businesses will continue to serve the public nourishing food, beverage, retail services with medically advised no-contact curbside pickup and delivery. All of us will continue innovating for as long as it takes to weather this unprecedented crisis.”

As of Monday morning, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 11,380 confirmed cases of COVID-19. ADHS listed 542 deaths attributed to the virus.

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois and Arizona government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Central Illinois and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.