Tucson restaurants, bars worried after citywide suspension to slow the spread of coronavirus

Local businesses adjust to new coronavirus protocol

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As businesses were forced to close their doors across Tucson on Tuesday night, some owners worried an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus may end up killing the local economy.

Mayor Regina Romero announced all dine-in services at restaurants would be suspended and bars, food courts, gyms and other venues where people congregate would need to close

The decision follows recent guidance from the state health department. Several other cities, like San Francisco and Oklahoma City, have done the same thing.

[ Tucson announces suspension of dine-in services, other venues during outbreak ]

“My family has been in the restaurant business for 90 years, almost 90 years. Nobody in the family can remember anything like this," said Ande Motzkin, the general manager Caruso’s on Fourth Avenue.

Motzkin said only about a quarter of Caruso’s business, during normal hours, comes from take-out orders. With Tuesday’s announcement, Motzkin had to make 70 tough calls to her staff already worried over what could come with the coronavirus.

“I prepared for the safety and I prepared for the well-being, but I didn’t prepare for the psychology,” Motzkin said. “This past weekend is when the staff came and started saying things like, ‘I’m scared. I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills, I don’t know how I’m going to feed my babies if something happens.’ And I had to make the call saying, ‘something happened.’”

Caruso’s doesn’t offer delivery, but the restaurant will continue with a carry-out or take-out option. Bars, like Mr. Head’s, won’t be able to operate at full potential either.

“So we figured it was on the way, we would’ve liked more than a six hours heads up, though," said bar manager Ben Sattler.

Sattler and owner, Micah Blatt, sat down with KOLD News 13 Tuesday afternoon. They found out about the mayor’s decision on Twitter.

“The first thing that goes through my mind is what did the city think that they could do to help the workers they are putting out of work with zero notice," Blatt said. “Was there a plan put in place to help protect people? Was there a plan put in place to give any sort of warning so people knew what was coming? These guys have bills.”

Blatt said he sent out a message to staff last week, warning them of changes to schedules due to a decline in customers during the coronavirus outbreak. For him, Tuesday’s decision didn’t make sense, with grocery stores or cafeterias allowed to remain open.

For now, the new normal on Fourth Avenue may have a little fear with businesses who survive off customers coming holding their breath.

“Hopefully, everyone gets tired of what they have at home and comes out and supports us, so we can support the staff we have," Motzkin said.

This policy went into effect at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 and runs through the end of the month.

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