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Tucson closes bars, puts limits on restaurants to fight virus spread

Tucson closes bars, puts limits on restaurants to fight virus spread

The front gate to The Hut on 4th Avenue in Tucson is chained and padlocked in the early afternoon on St. Patrick's Day after the city announced that bars and restaurants had to close their doors by 8 p.m., March 17, 2020, Tucson, Ariz.

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Tucson Mayor Regina Romero on Tuesday declared a local emergency as a result of the spread of the coronavirus, ordering several local businesses within city limits to close, limiting restaurants to drive-through and take-out only, and warning business owners that they could be charged with a misdemeanor if they do not do adhere to the new regulations.

Romero's proclamation states that bars, theaters, museums, gymnasiums, bowling alleys and similar businesses are ordered to close, effective at 8 p.m. Tuesday and lasting through the end of the month. The proclamation does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, food pantries, banks, or restaurants and cafeterias located within houses of worship, universities, the airport or care homes. The rules also do not cover establishments outside of the city limits.

The mayor's proclamation further states that "all restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, retail food facilities, and other similar businesses and establishments are prohibited from serving food and beverages for consumption on premises" but are encouraged to offer drive-through, take-out, or pick-up service if they can.

Any person that violates the order can be charged with a class-one misdemeanor, with further violations constituting separate offenses, the proclamation states. But representatives from the city said that they are not going to be redirecting law enforcement officers to monitor enforcement "at this time."

"My top priority, above all else, is to protect public health. This is a painful decision that I do not take lightly. Several restaurants have already stopped dine-in service and transitioned to all drive through and curb-side pick-up," Romero said in a statement. “I want to reiterate that food being served by our restaurants is safe. It is the congregation of individuals in a dine-in setting that is unsafe. At this time, the best thing we can do is come together as a community and take care of each other. We’re all in this together. We will get through this.”

Following the proclamation, the Tucson Metro Chamber issued a statement advocating for takeout and delivery services from local restaurants, stating it "is in the best interests of the community, our restaurants and the employees that work in these establishments."

"Our local businesses and their employees depend on your business to pay their bills. The more unemployed workers created during this crisis, the longer it will take for our community to recover," the statement said. "There is no doubt that our community will recover, and we must be proactive to try to control the depth of recovery necessary."

Ian Johnson fills a trio of crowlers (32-ounce containers) for a takeout customer at Crooked Tooth Brewing Co. in Tucson, March 17, 2020. Mayor Regina Romero's closure order allows for takeout from restaurants.

The announcement comes on St. Patrick's Day and about a week after she announced several other city initiatives to limit the spread of COVID-19, a list that included not issuing future special event permits for groups of 50 or more, suspending Tucson Water shutoffs and late fees for customers who are delinquent on payments, and extending sick leave for city employees.

Romero further announced on Tuesday that all service counters and lobbies within city building will be closed through the end of March and that the city will be continuing services and operations electronically through the end of the month. There will be no interruption in trash, recycling landfill, or water services, and that there will be no water services through thee end of April. All evictions on city-owned public housing will be suspended through the end of April.

Romero's announcement only applies to the city of Tucson. A representative from the county said the health department is meeting later Tuesday to discuss ways to keep local operations in business, while adhering to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control to limit social gatherings to 10 people.

Earlier, Flagstaff announced restaurants will be to-go service only, and bars, theaters, fitness centers and indoor recreation facilities will be closed starting Tuesday night, the city's mayor ordered in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.

The closures and restrictions came as northern Arizona's first coronavirus case was identified, bringing Arizona's total to 20.

The latest patient is a resident of Navajo County, but cases have been confirmed in Maricopa, Pima, Pinal and Graham counties.

Contact reporter Justin Sayers atjsayers1@tucson.comor 573-4192. Twitter: @_JustinSayers. Facebook: JustinSSayers.

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