TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Bars, gyms and movie theaters in Pima County could re-open as soon as this week. The official announcement is expected on Thursday, Aug. 27.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties will likely move into the “moderate” category of community spread; a benchmark that must be met to loosen restrictions.
This long awaited news is even more refreshing than the outdoor air conditioners at Three Canyon Beer and Wine Garden off Sabino Canyon Road and East Snyder Road.
“It will be nice to see my customers again,” said Steve Sheldon, the owner of the bar and restaurant.
Known for its enormous outdoor seating area, Sheldon can’t understand why Three Canyon isn’t allowed to serve customers when social distancing could easily be achieved.
“The liquor board has never had any complaints from us,” he said. “The [Pima County] health department has given me the big gold check marks twice! We’ve tried to do it right.”
Still, he says the state “lumped everyone together”. As a Series 7 liquor license holder, Three Canyon was forced to close for a second time in June.
“It’s … taken a lot out of me,” said Sheldon. “If it wasn’t for my other businesses [keeping this one afloat], I probably would not be able to open back up.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 25, Sheldon was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We are seeing a decrease in the number of cases and the rate of cases,” said Dr. Cara Christ, the Director of AZDHS. “It’s a little bit safer to open up things; still with a reduced capacity and a lot of requirements in place.”
Establishments, like Sheldon’s, would only be able open at half capacity and would need to sell at least 50% food.
Several other guidelines for bars, gyms, movie theaters and tubing services would also need to be followed.
Last week, Cochise County was listed as moderate. Businesses, like Uptown Theatre, were preparing to welcome back customers, only to have the health department say it made a mistake hours later.
“Really, what we want to do is provide our businesses and stakeholders with stable recommendations,” said Christ. “So, we won’t pull a county out of a ‘moderate’ or ‘minimal’ phase until it’s been two or more weeks that they have gone back into that higher phase. Then, what we are going to do is work with them, not necessarily to shut them back down, but put some additional mitigations back in place.”
That means Cochise County businesses, like Uptown Theatre, can remain open for at least two weeks, even if the numbers change.
When Pima County gets the green light, Sheldon says two weeks should be enough time to bring his employees back while he tries to obtain a series 12 liquor license.
“I want to be able to serve the people we have here and if we have to do 50% capacity, I’m OK with that,” he said.
Three Canyon is aiming for a Saturday, Aug. 29, reopening. Once Pima County is in the “moderate” stage, bars, gyms, movie theaters and tubing operators will have fill out the attestation form found HERE.