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Chuy's in Oro Valley loses liquor license after serving during coronavirus shutdown
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Chuy's in Oro Valley loses liquor license after serving during coronavirus shutdown

From the April's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: 1,200+ Pima County cases, stay-home order extended series

The state liquor board has suspended the liquor license of Chuy’s Mesquite Broiler in Oro Valley after officials said the restaurant was allowing diners to eat on the patio.

State liquor department officials indefinitely suspended the liquor license of Chuy’s Mesquite Broiler in Oro Valley after state officials said the restaurant was allowing diners to eat on the patio.

Chuy’s owner Christopher Evenson said he has an attorney and plans to appeal the suspension.

The suspension came after Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control received complaints of diners eating at the restaurant after the state ordered all restaurants to transition to takeout only on March 20, said Jeffery Trillo, assistant director of the state Department of Liquor’s Licensing and Administration Division.

The order is in effect at least through the end of April.

State officials made numerous requests for Chuy’s at 8195 N. Oracle Road to comply with the order to no avail, Trillo said Thursday in a written statement. Evenson denies the claim.

Evenson said three liquor department officials, accompanied by two Oro Valley police officers, “came bull-rushing in, real abrupt” around 5 p.m. April 17 when 10 to 12 people were on the patio either waiting for or ordering takeout. Evenson said there were a couple of people eating.

Evenson said that since the coronavirus shutdown when he transitioned to takeout only, many of his customers have taken their orders and eaten in their cars in the parking lot.

“That’s their choice,” he said. “If you’re an adult, you are expressing your civil rights to be where you want to be. It would be different if we had a banner on the road enticing people to come in with 5-cent beers.”

Trillo said his office has pursued a number of complaints statewide of restaurants defying Gov. Doug Ducey’s shutdown order, but in each instance, “licensees complied and altered their operations.”

The license suspension prevents Chuy’s from selling alcohol until the license is reinstated, although the restaurant can still sell food.

The suspension is in effect until the state holds a hearing on the matter or license department officials decide to lift it, Trillo said.

Without alcohol sales, Evenson said his daily receipts have dropped to about $400 from the $1,000 a day he was bringing in since the shutdown.

Meanwhile, Evenson continues to employ his 11 workers on reduced schedules and is waiting for federal relief funds. He said he has been approved for the relief but has yet to receive any money.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

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