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Tucson restaurant, like others in Arizona, closing dining rooms as COVID-19 cases spike
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Tucson restaurant, like others in Arizona, closing dining rooms as COVID-19 cases spike

From the June's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Bars, gyms face shutdowns; Tucsonans worried telemedicine might disappear series

The sight of customers lined up outside caused concern for the owner of BK's

A popular Tucson Sonoran hot dog restaurant is closing its dining rooms and returning to takeout after the state reported consecutive record days of new coronavirus cases.

BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs will return to carryout-only service Thursday, June 18, at both of its locations — 2680 N. First Ave. and 5118 S. 12th Ave. — owner Benjamin Galaz said Wednesday.

He is hoping that other Tucson restaurants will follow his lead.

“If they see me, that I’m doing this, I think they will be more willing to do the same thing,” he said.

But Ray Flores, president of Flores Concepts that operates El Charro restaurants, said he is worried that people will jump to the conclusion that restaurants are contributing to the increase in Arizona COVID-19 cases.

“It’s not solely because of restaurants opening,” said Flores, who waited weeks to reopen his dining rooms after Gov. Doug Ducey gave restaurants the green light on May 11. “It’s (people’s) personal behavior that’s causing the spike.”

Galaz made the decision to close his dining rooms after noticing the long lines of customers waiting outside to get in. The restaurant is operating at 50% capacity, which Galaz said has resulted in the lines.

Some of his customers wear masks, but many do not, and Galaz worried that some were not taking the threat of the pandemic as seriously as they had before Ducey’s stay-at-home order expired May 15.

“It’s too much people in one spot, and we are doing everything the Health Department told us to do, but it’s too much people in one spot,” said Galaz, who opened his south- side restaurant in 1994 and his restaurant on First Avenue 15 years ago. “I think for the safety of our employees and our customers, we are going back to takeout.”

Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, said he has heard of several restaurants statewide that reopened their dining rooms only to close for the same reasons as Galaz. Earlier this week in Phoenix, several restaurants announced they were returning to carryout-only in response to the growing coronavirus rates in the state.

“We’ve seen restaurants remain closed for that reason but also for the reason of how do you regulate and stop a line from forming,” Chucri said, adding that some restaurants also are concerned with the impact the lines are having on their kitchen staffs.

“We certainly understand and applaud the responsibility factor and the willingness to” close dining rooms, he said.

Galaz said pausing dining-in will put a financial hardship on some of his employees, but he said the safety of his customers and workers is too important.

“Right now it is ... about the safety of all the employees and all the customers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tucson’s Mi Nidito Mexican restaurant, 1813 S. Fourth Ave., reopened its dining rooms on June 10, three weeks after it closed when an employee was diagnosed with the virus.

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

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