Hundreds of COVID-related complaints reported in Pima County

Updated: Jul. 6, 2020 at 8:39 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Health Department has received nearly 400 complaints relating to COVID-19 concerns over the last two weeks.

That includes complaints about the county’s mask mandate and people complaining about businesses, primarily restaurants, not complying with all of the safety requirements to be open. A PCHD spokesperson told KOLD News 13 the total was at 395 from June 22 through July 6.

According to a memo filed by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry on Monday, the Consumer Health and Food Safety Division of the Health Department was instructed to visit every bar in the county that holds a series 6 or 7 liquor license from the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. On June 29, Governor Doug Ducey ordered those establishments to close for at least 30 days. to make sure they were in compliance with the Governor’s Order.

Of the 200 facilities, 168 were visited July 2 through July 5. The others are in more remote locations and will be visited as soon as possible. According to the memo, some of these facilities have additional types of liquor licenses which were not impacted by the order. Those facilities can serve alcohol to customers sitting at tables.

Of the 168 visited, the county reported 124 facilities were closed. 44 facilities were open for business and an onsite observation was conducted.

11 facilities were referred to the State Liquor Board for non-compliance, including:

• Zona 78, 7301 E Tanque Verde

• Famous Sam’s, 2320 N Silverbell Rd

• Old Father Inn, 4080 W Ina Rd

• Salty Dawg II, 6121 E Broadway Blvd

• Iguana Café, 210 E Congress

• El Chinito Gordo, 2920 N Oracle Rd

• Home Plate, 4880 E 22nd St

• Famous Sams, 8058 N Oracle Rd

• Casa Marana, 8225 N Courtney Page Way

• Circle S Saloon, 16021 W EL TIRO RD

• Buggy Wheel, 3156 E Drexel

“I feel like we’re a lot safer, in my opinion, than a lot of places that are open,” said Kyle Schwab, owner of Casa Marana. “We sort of feel singled out, but we can’t really control anything. So, we are just going day by day.”

Schwab said the first round of ordered closures due to the coronavirus cut his staff, supply and options to serve his customers.

“Still taking it day by day. Trying to hold onto as much cash as possible to get us through this,” said Schwab.

A food truck is parked outside the storefront where pizza is served during business hours. Schwab said he wanted to add a pizza oven inside the rented space, but the landlord would not allow it. So, pizza just steps outside was the only option to offer food, like any other restaurant.

So, when the Governor ordered bars, but not restaurants, to close again last week, Schwab questioned if Casa Marana truly fell into the category that needed to comply.

“It was very hard to understand, it didn’t really seem like they could explain it themselves, so we did what we could,” said Schwab. “We distanced all of our tables, we made sure out staff was following all protocols.”

Schwab said someone with the health department stopped by Casa Marana Sunday and provided education on the Governor’s Order.

“She came in and made sure we were in compliance with the safety protocols that they had issued, which we did pass all of them. I didn’t know she was going to send us over,” said Schwab. “They are threatening to pull your license, which holds a lot of value for me. So, that part is sort of scary.”

[ Tap house with Series 6 liquor license to reopen ]

The owner of Old Father Inn said his facility operates under a gaming license, since there is off-track betting. He said they are only open during races and have been cleared to operate.

After this story aired, a representative with Zona 78 reached out to KOLD News 13 and said the business should not have been referred to the State Liquor Board, either, due to the full-service restaurant operating under a series 12 license and a supplemental series 7 license. Per the memo referenced in this story, establishments with both can remain open.

The spokesperson included in the email:

“It doesn’t need to be said how challenging it is to operate a restaurant during the current pandemic, and we are very proud that each one of our staff members has committed him or herself to going above and beyond to make sure that everything in our restaurant is sanitized, that all of our guests are seated six-feet apart, that every staff member is healthy, and that we are doing everything else in our power to ensure a safe and healthy dining environment. In fact, PCHD conducted a thirteen-point inspection of our Covid-19 policies, and not only did we pass every single one of these 13 points, but PCHD awarded us the Pima County Best Practice Pledge Badge.”

Gyms and Fitness Centers Impacted by Executive Order

The Pima County Health Department reports complaints were received about five gyms and fitness centers remaining open June 29 or after. Three were Orangetheory Fitness locations, which posted they were closed for the holiday weekend.

According to the memo, the gyms will be contacted again Tuesday, July 7, and made aware of the Executive Order.

Mask Complaints Filed June 23 - June 30

• 112 mask related complaints received and addressed

• 1 scheduled for a site visit because of multiple complaints

• Complaints were about customers or employees not wearing masks in public areas.

Complaints Regarding Proclamation Safety Measures Filed June 23 - June 30

• 72 Proclamation complaints received and addressed

• 98 onsite assessments completed (due to a combination of complaints, requests, and routine scheduled inspections)

• Complaints were submitted by customers and employees and included issues regarding lack of cleaning, lack of masks by employees, ill employees, etc.

You can filed a complaint through the COVID-19 Safety Standards Business & Community Reporting form.

To read how complaints are handled by the county, click here.

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