PHOENIX – Karaoke is back at your local bar.
So are pool and darts. Also video games and pinball.
And you can even participate in axe throwing, if that’s your thing.
But leave the dancing shoes at home. For the moment, Arizona remains a dance-free zone.
The changes come as the state Department of Health Services has decided these activities, which have been forbidden for months under the COVID-19 emergency restrictions, can now be conducted — if certain precautions are taken.
There was no immediate response from the health department to questions about why the sudden change in what’s allowable.
But nothing in the risks from the virus has changed substantially since at least August according to the agency’s own “dashboard” that determines the restrictions on business. In fact, the percentage of tests for the virus that have been coming up positive actually is showing an upward trend.
What has changed is that Gov. Doug Ducey and state health director Cara Christ are defending themselves in court against a lawsuit brought by more than 100 bar owners charging that their rules are unlawfully discriminatory. That is because restaurants have been able to open and operate pretty much normally now for months, albeit with some occupancy limits, while bars face additional hurdles not only to open but, if they do, to the kinds of traditional activities that have brought in customers.
Attorney Ilan Wurman who represents the bar owners told Capitol Media Services that none of these changes will end that lawsuit. He said there are still unjustified restrictions on how his clients can do business, particularly in comparison to what some places licensed as restaurants have been able to do.
But Wurman said they will make a difference.
“It’s a huge deal,” he said.
For example, he said, some of his clients were promoting special nights for pool or darts tournaments. Those contests by themselves did not generate a lot of cash themselves.
“But no one was showing up to have a drink,” Wurman said, without the “draw” of the games.
Still, things won’t look exactly the way they did before the governor enacted his emergency restrictions in March.
The person with the microphone has to be at least 12 feet away from the closest customer. Health officials have said that singing tends to project moisture particles farther than the normal 6-foot “social distancing” barrier.
But with plexiglass dividers in place, 6 feet is acceptable.
Microphones have to be disinfected or changed out between customers. Singers must wear masks.
More interested in a game of pool?
That, too, is now OK, but with a maximum of four players for a table and no one else gathered around. There has to be that 6-foot physical distancing between the players and other game areas. And if players don’t have their own equipment, everything else needs to be disinfected between each group’s use.
Arcade and video games have their own set of rules, with just two players to a machine — and no spectators or cheering section behind them. There also are the physical distancing requirements, whether it’s the 6 feet of space or closing off every other machine.
Plus, of course, masks are mandatory.
The new rules also account for bowling and even ax throwing, with only the active participant permitted to be out of his or her chair and a limit of no more than 10 in players and observers.
And if you have your own bowling ball — or ax — please bring it.
The rules are set up pretty much that those who are not participating in any activity are supposed to remain seated except to play or go to the bathroom. Standing, mingling and dancing remain off limits.
In fact, the rules say if there is a dance floor it has to be closed off to the public or “repurposed” for more seats to allow greater social distancing among patrons.