Arizona may have lifted COVID-19 masks mandates, but if you plan to slip into Boca Tacos y Tequila on North Fourth Avenue, don’t forget your mask.
Chef/owner Maria Mazon has no intention yet of relaxing the mask protocols she has had in place since the pandemic began last March.
“For me it was a very simple decision,” she said on Friday, March 26, hours after she posted a note on the restaurant’s Facebook page alerting customers of the move.
“I don’t understand the governor. His decision is his decision. I own my place and my decision is my decision,” she said.
“I still think that the majority of people think the transition is too fast and I would rather keep the majority of people happy rather than those folks who think we shouldn’t have had it in the first place,” said Serial Grillers owner Travis Miller, who said masks will still be required of his employees and customers. “For us, I still think it’s too soon. ... We are not rushing into it. We are trying to keep people safe still.”
The restaurants’ decisions come a day after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey lifted all pandemic protocols from mask mandates to social distancing and occupancy rates as the state’s COVID-19 numbers continue trending downward. But private businesses don’t have to follow Ducey’s order, which doesn’t apply to federal buildings that have to follow a federal mask mandate instituted by President Biden last month.
Several restaurants in Tucson are opting to continue requiring face masks at least for the time being.
The Salted Pig American Barbecue at 11835 N. Oracle Road in Oro Valley is taking the “play it by ear, touch and go” stance it has had since opening in February.
“We’ve decided that for at least the next month, we are going to keep doing what we’re doing,” said general manager Jason Lucas. “It’s important for us that the guests and everyone feels comfortable and safe.”
Lucas said Salted Pig’s diners are evenly split on wearing masks.
“A lot of folks are completely fed up with the restrictions and ready to get back to life as normal. But we’ve got just as many who are concerned,” he said, adding that Salted Pig will revisit the issue in a month or so to see where the health crisis stands. “That is the basis of our decision here is to be as inclusive as possible.”
Mazon also plans to ask her employees for input in about a month and could relax her position if the health crisis allows.
“For me, I need to know that the majority of my staff has been vaccinated who wants to be vaccinated,” added Mazon, who has already received the vaccine. “If people are getting upset because I require them to wear a mask from point A to point B? It’s simple. You’re at the door, wait to be seated and wear your mask.”
Meanwhile, Miller and Mazon said one of the biggest hurdles they face is finding enough employees to staff their restaurants.
“The patio is open and indoors is open at night because of the lack of staff,” Mazon said, adding that she has openings for nearly all positions at Boca, 533 N. Fourth Ave.
Miller said he has vacancies at all four of his Serial Grillers locations — 7585 S. Houghton Road, 1970 W. River Road, 5975 E. Speedway and 5660 W. Cortaro Farms Road in Marana — as well as Taco Loco at 7940 W. Broadway and Boulevard BBQ at 5737 E. Speedway.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at email@example.com. On Twitter @Starburch.