Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Mar 10, 2021 at 10:55 AM

click to enlarge HOTEL CONGRESS
Hotel Congress

Now that COVID-19 cases are trending downward across Pima County —and the governor has removed business occupancy restrictions—Hotel Congress is looking to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

"We are not idiots. A traditional green beer and Irish whiskey-drenched bacchanalia is not an appropriate option, but maybe—just maybe— we do a little more than a "tip o' the hat" to St. Patrick's Day," according to a recent Hotel Congress release.

The hotel's Cup Cafe will begin serving traditional Irish fares like corned beef and cabbage, Guinness beef stew and Irish cream cupcakes until 3 p.m. Wednesday. Then the party kicks into full swing at 5 p.m. on the hotel's plaza as the Plaza Eats food truck serves up all your Irish food favorites, Irish coffee, Irish whiskey flights, along with specials on Guinness pints and Jameson shots.

DJ PC Party will be holding down the ones-and-twos, complimentary party favors will be handed out to partygoers and the evening is set to crescendo with the Great Guinness Toast at 10 p.m.

Hotel Congress will be adhering to COVID-19 protocols during the celebration. For more information, visit the Hotel Congress website

Friday, March 5, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2021 at 1:13 PM

click to enlarge Gov. Doug Ducey
Gov. Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey announced he is rescinding his previous executive order limiting occupancy capacity for restaurants, gyms, theaters, water parks, bowling alleys and bars with dine-in service in a new executive order signed and released Friday.

The governor’s order still keeps the mask mandate and social distancing protocols in place, but businesses can return to full occupancy “effective immediately”.

“We’ve learned a lot over the past year. Our businesses have done an excellent job at responding to this pandemic in a safe and responsible way,” Ducey said. “We will always admire the sacrifice they and their employees have made and their vigilance to protect against the virus.”

Ducey is also giving Spring Training and major league sports the green light to proceed, provided they submit a plan on how they will implement CDC and state guidelines to the Arizona Department of Health Services and it received approval.

The executive order also precludes local municipalities to implement “extreme measures” that would stop businesses from operating.



Friday, January 29, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 2:59 PM

click to enlarge Bar service at the HighWire Lounge. - ARIANA CASTORENA
Ariana Castorena
Bar service at the HighWire Lounge.

A judge has rejected Pima County's efforts to reinstate its mandatory curfew that was temporarily halted after it was challenged by local bars.

A group of Tucson bars sued the county for the harm they faced from the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and was granted a preliminary injunction on Jan. 19 preventing the county from enforcing it.

Owners of Cobra Arcade Bar, HighWire Lounge and The Maverick filed a joint lawsuit on Jan. 5 contending the county overextended their legal authority to mandate a curfew.

The owner of The Maverick, Grant Krueger, included other Tucson restaurants he owns in the lawsuit: Union Public House, Reforma Modern Mexican and Proof Artisanal Pizza & Pasta.

On Jan. 22, the county responded with a motion that would allow them to continue the curfew, but Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson denied it on Wednesday.

“Defendant argues Plaintiffs’ harms are lessened by the ability to sell food and beverage for offsite consumption even if the curfew is enforced, and their decision not to do so when the curfew was in effect was voluntary. The County also argues its ability to respond to the emergency created by the pandemic is substantially limited if the stay is not granted,” Johnson wrote in the ruling. “The Court considered these arguments in its ruling on the preliminary injunction, and found Plaintiffs demonstrated irreparable harm, and that the balance of hardship tipped in Plaintiffs’ favor.”

The court ordered the preliminary injunction on the grounds the curfew is not “statutorily authorized,” the plaintiffs demonstrated the harm it causes them and it violates Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order.

The governor’s May 12 executive order states: “...no county, city or town may make or issue any order, rule or regulation that conflicts with or is in addition to the policy, directives or intent of this Executive Order, including but not limited to any order restricting persons from leaving their home due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

The curfew was originally set to end when the county reached a rate of 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Its current rate is 9,598 cases per 100,000, according to Arizona Department of Health Services data.

The curfew will be halted until a resolution of the case. A trial date has yet to be set.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2021 at 1:10 PM

click to enlarge Bar service at the HighWire Lounge. - ARIANA CASTORENA
Ariana Castorena
Bar service at the HighWire Lounge.

Pima County’s mandatory 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew has been temporarily halted after a group of Tucson bars were granted a preliminary injunction barring the county from enforcing the curfew.

Owners of Cobra Arcade Bar, HighWire Lounge and The Maverick filed a joint lawsuit on Jan. 5 contending the county overextended their legal authority to mandate a curfew.

The owner of The Maverick, Grant Krueger, included other Tucson restaurants he owns in the lawsuit: Union Public House, Reforma Modern Mexican and Proof Artisanal Pizza & Pasta.

After considering the evidence at a Jan. 15 hearing, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson ordered Pima County to cease enforcing the curfew in a ruling filed Jan. 19.

“The Court finds the hardships imposed on the Plaintiffs by the curfew are severe. Additionally, the hardships are arguably unfair because the Court finds Plaintiffs can adhere to the ADHS required safety measures both before and after 10 p.m.,” Johnson wrote in the ruling, echoing the defendant’s arguments. “Moreover, the virus is spread just as easily late at night as it is during the day. Bar patrons can drink excessively during the day just as easily as they can at night.”

While the judge acknowledged the challenges Pima County has managing the COVID-19 pandemic, she held the parties’ legal arguments tipped in the restaurant owners’ favor.

“The County could not demonstrate in testimony or other evidence that more cases are contracted after 10 p.m. Nor has it demonstrated specifically that its current hardships are worsened by people and businesses engaging in conduct after 10 p.m.,” Johnson wrote of the county’s defense. “To the contrary, the burden the County faces in managing this pandemic will continue until the pandemic is under control. The County has simply failed to demonstrate how the curfew not being enforced would cause it additional hardship.”

Pima County County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia said the 10 p.m. curfew was based on evidence gathered when the county sent 46 inspectors to observe nearly 400 establishments for compliance to the curfew and found 15% of them didn’t comply.

“We have to draw a line in the sand in terms of when you would ask a business like a bar or a restaurant to stop operating. That line in the sand needs to not be entirely arbitrary,” Garcia said. “We know that, based on the surveillance that our county inspection team did, that bars that were operating after 10 o'clock, that there was a substantial amount of non-compliance with the kinds of measures that we've recommended all along. So yes, 10 may seem like a rather odd and very specific time to select, but this is based on actually our observations of what people are doing in those kinds of establishments.”

Grant Krueger, a plaintiff in the case, said he plans to keep both The Maverick and Union Public House open until 2 a.m. beginning tonight.

“We feel that we've been doing it safely since before 10 p.m. and we can do it safely as well after 10 p.m.,” Krueger said. “We've made a lot of really, really good people really happy today by calling back all kinds of staff members who have had to have their hours reduced, limited or even completely eliminated.”

Chuckie Duff, a plaintiff and owner of Cobra Arcade Bar, said he plans on keeping the bar open until midnight tonight and returning to normal business hours of 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. this weekend.

“We're very happy with the ruling and we're glad that we can go back to our normal business hours and continue to follow the rules as we were before and keep everybody safe,” Duff said. “If we have more hours we can be open, it's definitely more hours for our existing employees and hopefully more employees that we'll be bringing back.”

Judge Johnson wrote she’s granting the injunction on the grounds that the curfew is not “statutorily authorized,” the plaintiffs demonstrated the harm it causes them and it violates Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order.

The governor’s May 12 executive order states: “...no county, city or town may make or issue any order, rule or regulation that conflicts with or is in addition to the policy, directives or intent of this Executive Order, including but not limited to any order restricting persons from leaving their home due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

click to enlarge On May 12, Gov. Ducey issued his "Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger" executive order. - GOVERNOR DOUG DUCEY EXECUTIVE ORDER 2020-36
Governor Doug Ducey Executive Order 2020-36
On May 12, Gov. Ducey issued his "Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger" executive order.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors authorized the county attorney to appeal the ruling, according to a press release.

“It is the County’s firm belief that state law empowers the Health Department to take specific actions such as the curfew to mitigate and halt the spread of infectious diseases,” the release said. “In the meantime, Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia urges all businesses to continue to voluntarily adhere to the curfew and limit gatherings.”

The curfew was originally set to end when the county reached a rate of 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Its current rate is 8,856 cases per 100,000, according to state data.

The curfew will be halted until the resolution of the case. A trial date has yet to be set.

This post has been updated to include comments from bar owners and county officials.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Posted By on Fri, Dec 4, 2020 at 3:22 PM

While it might not be safe to take your kids to sit on Santa's lap this year, that doesn't mean ol' Kris Kringle won't be back downtown for the annual Miracle on Congress Street.

Starting Friday, Dec. 4, Santa will be up on the rooftop at Playground, 278 E. Congress St., to wave to kids from the proverbial safe physical distance. Kids can drop their letter to Santa in a mailbox on Fifth Avenue next to the Tucson Together mural painted on the side of Playground.

Plus, all good boys and girls get a free scoop of peppermint ice cream from the HUB Ice Cream truck, which will be on hand to bring us all a little more holiday cheer.

And if the grownups in your group have been good, HUB
Restaurant and Ice Creamery has put together a new cocktail menu to celebrate the season. Among the offerings:

- Santa’s Peanut Butter Cookies (Screwball peanut butter whiskey, creme de Cacao, half/half)

- Red wine and winter spices (Orange, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg)

- Spiced Rum (cream of coconut, vanilla, cinnamon

- Tucson Boulevardier (Del Bac, Campari, Sweet Vermouth

Santa will be on duty between 4 and 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday every weekend through Dec. 19. (After that, Santa has a lot of work to get done!) Free parking is available at the nearby AC Marriott Downtown.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2020 at 10:14 AM

click to enlarge JEFF GARDNER
Jeff Gardner
Public Brewhouse enjoyed its final weekend on Oct. 10-11 after more than five years of selling unique craft beers just off of Fourth Avenue. Citing COVID-19 as a primary contributor to their closing, the "nanobrewery" thanks locals for the years of support.

While Public Brewhouse offered a wide variety of beers from seasonal stouts to Sonoran sours, they also carved out a niche for themselves with trivia nights, board games and live music.

“Our name, Public, comes from the idea that a pub is a public house. We really wanted to create an environment people feel comfortable coming into," head brewer Mike Gura previously told the Tucson Weekly.

Shortly before the pandemic hit, Public Brewhouse expanded in February with a sister location, Public Taphouse at 6720 E. Camino Principal, which remains on COVID hiatus.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2020 at 2:30 PM

click to enlarge Damage to the storage-shed at Putney's Sports Bar and Grill after Tuesday morning's suspected arson fire. - FERNANDO GOMEZ
Fernando Gomez
Damage to the storage-shed at Putney's Sports Bar and Grill after Tuesday morning's suspected arson fire.

The storage shed of Putney’s Pitstop Sports Bar and Grill, located at 6090 N Oracle Rd, was set ablaze in a suspected arson fire in the early hours of Tuesday.

Owner Fernando Gomez said his security cameras show a male wearing a black hood and COVID mask pouring gasoline on the business’ storage-shed and then placing two Duralogs under the wooden fence surrounding the bar's patio. A quick flick of the wrist ignited a match and the structure went up in flames.

Gomez suspects the arson’s motive is due to their COVID mask requirement as directed by the state for reopening during the pandemic.

“With requiring people to wear masks, we’ve been having to turn away a lot of people. We always tell them we’re trying to stay open. If we don’t comply, we’ll be shut down,” Gomez said. “We even give out free masks if they don’t have one. But a lot of people start talking shit to us or our staff.”

Only the storage-shed and an exterior wall enclosing the establishment’s patio was scorched. While the official tally of damages has yet to be determined, Gomez estimates around $15,000-$20,000 in damages was caused by the blaze.

“We’ve only been open two weeks and now this shit happens,” Gomez said. “But the bar wasn’t hurt at all, thank God,” Gomez said. “The main thing that got destroyed was our tables and chairs we had pulled out of the place to follow occupancy guidelines.”

The fire started at 3:36 a.m., according to Putney’s exterior security cameras. Local firefighters were on the scene within four minutes, helping reduce the amount of damage to the bar itself. Police were called to the scene and found what they believe to be the suspect’s COVID mask which might be able to provide clues to who started the fire.

“(Police) can get DNA from that mask. If that person’s DNA is in the database, (police) are going to catch them,” Gomez said. “They did say they had a strong lead. I really hope they catch this asshole.”

Putney's will still open for business during clean-up efforts by staff and management.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2020 at 3:55 PM

click to enlarge Dillinger Brewing co-owners Eric Sipe and Aaron Long. - COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
Dillinger Brewing co-owners Eric Sipe and Aaron Long.
Downtown Tucson will be getting another fantastic taproom, by a fantastic local brewery in one fantastic location by 2021.

North-central Tucson's Dillinger Brewing Company is opening a second location at the southeast corner of Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue in the former space of The Coronet. 

"To have that level of visibility is going to be awesome," Dillinger Brewing co-owner Eric Sipe said.

Sipe and his business partner, Arron Long, said they had been looking for a new space to open a more central located taproom, but the pandemic put the brakes on that—at first. They're excited to be opening a second location in the heart of downtown, according to Long

"This kind of fell into our lap and we couldn't turn it down," Long said. "It the right size for us and it's got a great outdoor area that has great foot traffic."

The two owners still plan on keeping their original taproom open but plan on explaining their brewing capacity, according to Long. While brewing won't take place at the new spot, the owners plan on creating a barrel-aging program in the the space's two 200 square-foot rooms.

"Our current spot is going to host production and brewing atmosphere," Long said. "The downtown location will feature our specials and barrel-aged releases."

Long said the property's landlord has been willing to work with the brewery over concerns of opening during the pandemic, considering Gov. Doug Ducey extended the order to keep bars, movie theaters and tubing events closed until the virus' number decrease.

"We have complete confidence (the landlord) is willing to with us completely in the event at the shutdown lasts longer," Long said. "Every apprehension we was eased by how cool the landlords are being."

Down on the other end of Fourth Avenue on the corner of University Boulevard, Epic Cafe—the hipster coffee house loved by artists, students and aspiring writers—has decided to call it quits due to slow sales during the pandemic.

Owner Kimberly Flagg said she planned on reopening on Aug. 15, but with coronavirus lingering on and uncertainty looming, the owner decided it's better to close the doors and try to sell the late-night hangout spot. Flagg took over Epic Cafe in 2016 when the business was previously experiencing hard times. It's been in business on Fourth Avenue for roughly a quarter century.

"I'm pretty devastated at the moment. We really hoped to reopen on Aug. 15 on the condition the pandemic would be under control, the U of A would be open and doing face-to-face classes, that we would get some more funding to dig ourselves out of the COVID hole," Flagg said. "But it didn't happen so I put the 'for sale' sign up because if somebody could come in and buy it, Epic doesn't die."

Flagg said she's received several offers to take over her lease but only if they can change the concept. That's a non-starter for Flagg.

"I don't want someone to buy it and turn it into something else. I want someone to buy it and keep it Epic," Flag said. "I bought it because I didn't want to see this cafe close. If somebody loves Epic and wants to keep it Epic, come see me."
 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 8:12 AM

Do you love chimichangas? I mean do you really love chimichangas?

If you grew up in Tucson during the late ’80s to early ’90s, there's no doubt you saw commercials for the beloved all-you-can-eat Mexican restaurant of yesteryear: Gordo's Mexicateria.

 John Henry's Bar in downtown Tucson played tribute to Gordo's famed commercials by recreating one to announce the limited-capacity reopening over Memorial Day weekend.

"I've always had an affinity for TV ads and radio jingles growing up. Being a Tucson kid, I can still remember the Golf 'n Stuff song in its entirety," John Henry's Bar co-owner Sean Humphrey said. "Gordo's whole line of, "Do you like chimichangas?" has such a super-Tucson feel and I fell in love with it."

Humphrey said he wanted to remind Tucsonans of a "happier times pre-COVID." Tyler Lidwell of Tyler Lidwell Videography LLC, who shot the Tips For Tucson video last month at John Henry's, signed on to film the commercial.

"I wanted to do an ad for my spot, something that was retro and pay homage to another Tucson establishment to remind people of happier times Pre-COVID," Humphrey said. "Tyler and I talked about filming it for a week and then shot it one day in about an hour-and-a-half."


Monday, April 27, 2020

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 11:00 AM

Want to help out service industry workers across Pima County who are hurting as the governor-mandated shutdown continues? A local barman has made it easy for the public to tip their favorite bartender or server using the interwebs.

The group is called Tips for Tucson, hosted by a Facebook page and a google docs spreadsheet. Tips for Tucson even made a video, shot and produced by Tyler Lidwell Videography, and features many bartenders from around Tucson’s nightlife scene helping get the word out.

The idea came to local bartender Kyle Blessinger over a morning whiskey with his friend Eric Smith, a bartender at the temporarily shuttered Kingfisher. Earlier, Smith had forwarded Blessinger a post about what bartenders in Indianapolis were doing to raise cash during the pandemic—a virtual tip jar.

“I was having a morning whiskey because it’s quarantine and there are no rules. Eric had forwarded me this idea,” Blessinger said. “We got to talking and I said, “Dude, we have to do something and this is easy.'”

Bartenders and servers depend on tips to supplement their income since they are paid a lower minimum wage rate—currently $8 per hour in Arizona. While applying for unemployment benefits may seem like the best option, Blessinger notes there can be a lot of down-time between applying and actually being approved for assistance. It took more than five weeks for Blessinger to receive benefits, he said.

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