Border restrictions affect Nogales businesses trying to recover from stay-at-home order

Border restrictions impacting businesses

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As businesses across the state slowly re-open, trying to regain some of their lost profits, mom and pop shops at the border are facing additional challenges.

Businesses in Nogales, Ariz., have been cut off from costumers on the other side of the U.S. – Mexico border.

“It’s pretty much a ghost town,” said Manny Ruiz, the Santa Cruz County Supervisor for District 1 (which encompasses downtown Nogales). “I took a ride [downtown] today and there’s probably maybe seven stores that are open.”

Normally, Morley Avenue would be packed this time of year, according to the operators of retail stores on the street. However, it was a different sight on Tuesday, May 26. Few shoppers visited businesses, many of which are still closed.

“It’s not good for our community and it’s not good for our employees either because as businesses go down, usually they tend to either lay off people of furlough people,” Ruiz said.

In March, travel through the U.S. - Mexico border was first limited to “essential trips only” for a 30-day period. That restriction has since been extended several times, and currently remains in place until June 22.

Cocina La Ley, a Mexican seafood restaurant on Third Street, has seen a drop in customers. Manager, German Larios, says it’s partly due to the pandemic and partly due to the border closure.

“I can’t say that that market doesn’t exist,” Larios said. “There are some people [from Mexico] that once they are on this side, they say ‘Oh, I miss that hometown flavor’ … and we have that!”

At this time, Cocina La Ley is offering take-out only. Larios says the family-owned operation has been able to retain some business from essential workers who travel across the border.

“This town does rely a lot on produce and the trucking and stuff, so that’s still open,” Larios said.

However, Ruiz says long waits at the border could be a deterrent for those who are considered essential.

“People are saying they are waiting up to three hours to come across,” Ruiz said.

Which also has an impact on the workforce. One retail store told KOLD News 13, on the slowest day, an employee from Nogales, Sonora, had to wait nearly 11 hours to get through.

Many residents hope the June 22 reopening is not pushed back further.

“We have to have faith that it’s going to occur. It’s like anything, you plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Ruiz said. “I think at the end of the day, we really need to pay attention to these things that can have a tremendous impact on the elderly population and the vulnerable population. Wear that mask, social distance. If we all put a little effort in, things will get back to normal.”

“We will do what we can to stay open,” Larios said. “We have been here for 27 years and we would like to stay here at least another 27 more.”

The fallout from the pandemic has affected all levels. Santa Cruz County officials expect a 25 percent cut in sales tax revenue.

Officials say reduced travel from Mexico can be felt even in Tucson.

“Tucson has a significant influx of Mexican nationals that help sustain our local economy and while all businesses have been affected by COVID-19, local businesses, restaurants, hotels, and retail are the most affected,” said Paul Mendoza with Business Development at the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “As the state reopens, it is essential that every business owner prepare and take the necessary precautions to make sure their employees and customers feel safe."

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