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Tim Steller's opinion: Some Tucson businesses close early despite curfew exemption
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Tim Steller's opinion: Some Tucson businesses close early despite curfew exemption

Gov. Doug Ducey’s curfew order was supposed to keep life normal for businesses still struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, along with their customers.

The order specifically exempted from the statewide 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew those people operating a private business, along with people going to a private business, or those specifically going to get food.

Nice idea — didn’t work.

Across Tucson, businesses have been closing early all week, citing the curfew as the reason. They don’t have to, but they’re doing so anyway out of either confusion or caution.

The most shocking change for many shoppers was at Walmart. Its stores that previously closed at 8:30 p.m. have been closing at 5 p.m.

Walgreens stores, even the 24-hour ones, have been closing at 7 p.m.

Safeway, Fry’s, Lowe’s and CVS have been closing earlier than usual at 8 p.m. Target was closing at 8, too, but has resumed regular hours, at least at the El Con store I visited Wednesday.

Chain stores were pretty uniform both in their hours, and in their boilerplate responses when I asked them why they closed early, since they don’t have to.

Fry’s responded: “The safety of our associates, customers and the community is always our top priority. At this time we are closing all our stores at 8 p.m. The remainder of the week we will evaluate the situation on a daily basis and adjust our store closing hours as needed.”

Safeway and Albertsons: “In response to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s statewide Declaration of Emergency that includes an 8 p.m. curfew, Albertsons and Safeway locations throughout Arizona will close at 8 p.m., and this will remain in effect until Monday, June 8, at 5 a.m. unless otherwise extended.”

Walgreens was more verbose: “Our top priority is the safety of our team members and customers. There may be instances during this time where stores temporarily close out of an abundance of caution or adjust operating hours due to curfews. We recommend AZ residents check the store locator feature on Walgreens.com and mobile app for information on store status, which we are ensuring is continuously updated throughout the day. Stores that close early ensure our team members can get home before the curfew.

These decisions aren’t without repercussions for customers though. Kathleen Crockett, of Tucson, gets around on a wheelchair and explained to me that her daily routine often involved picking up a medicine. But oftentimes it takes until nighttime for a medicine to be ready for pick-up, and she prefers to go out after the heat has gone down anyway.

“I can’t do that during the day,” she said. “The tires I have on my wheelchair, they’ll melt within a month.”

Crockett says she usually goes to Fry’s for prescriptions, but the pharmacy has been closing at 7.

And the inconvenience goes further: “Walmart canceled my grocery order. They didn’t even re-schedule. They just canceled it out.”

Some locally owned businesses have also been closing altogether or early because of the curfew, even though they don’t have to. The owners of Nana’s Kitchen, at 8225 N. Courtney Page Way near Cortaro and I-10, announced on Facebook the restaurant was closing for a few days, because they would not have time to serve dinner and get home before curfew.

“I’m sorry for any inconvenience, but we would have to close by 6 to ensure we all get out by 7:30 to be home by 8. I’ve heard other people tell me they got pulled over after work to be checked on. I’d like to be one less traffic stop delaying officers from doing their jobs,’ ” read the post by Javier Teran.

He told me Thursday he’s not worried about riots, but about driving home half an hour and all the stops police may feel they need to make.

Plus, he said, “Dinner is when we make our money.”

“I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” Tern said. “But if I do, I’m going to be more damned.”

He plans to re-open Friday and see how it goes.

Many business owners know they can stay open later but see no reason to, since not as many customers are willing to go out with a curfew in effect. Others are confused.

Amber Smith, president of the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said: “There is a lack of understanding of what the curfew says and means, and who it impacts. Simply, many don’t read the fine print.

“They hear curfew, 8 p.m. and think ‘I need to get my employees homes safely.’ ”

If days continue to pass with no significant problems, more businesses will probably drop their shortened hours and get back to the original challenge — surviving through COVID-19. After all we’ve been through, though, this was an unexpected additional challenge.

Contact: tsteller@tucson.com or 807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter

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