Bar and restaurant owners in Tucson are speaking up about the city and county’s new curfew and mask mandates and speaking out about who they hold responsible—the public.
The City of Tucson voted on Dec. 2 to enact a mandatory 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew through Dec. 23 with fines up to $300 in response to rapidly rising COVID rates. Mayor Regina Romero originally proposed the curfew start at 8 p.m., but the council ultimately decided on 10 p.m.
Three days later, the county approved six measures to combat the virus—including a mandatory mask mandate for all businesses and their customers. Under the new mandate, businesses found in violation could face a civil infraction which carries a $500 penalty and could cost the business its operating permit after the second offense. While the county is following the city’s curfew, the restriction is voluntary outside city limits.
Restaurateurs like Jonathan Landeen, owner of Jonathan’s Cork Tucson located in the city limits, said he is pleased the council chose to allow businesses to stay open until 10 p.m. Landeen’s dinner rush usually starts around 7 p.m. and wraps up just before the curfew goes into effect. Had the curfew started at 8 p.m., he said the consequences would be devastating not only for his business, but for all of Tucson’s restaurant community.
While he isn’t thrilled about the new restrictions, he lays the blame squarely on customers who have disregarded initial mask and social distancing regulations suggested by the state and CDC.
“We’ve actually had to be like a little schoolmarm to some of our regulars and remind them to put on their mask when they go to the restroom,” Landeen said. “But everybody who wants you to succeed plays along and does what they’re supposed to do.”
Landeen believes local business owners—especially in the service industry—are going above and beyond to keep their customers safe while keeping their doors open. While he acknowledges the local bar community is much more greatly impacted by the city’s mandatory curfew than his and other restaurants, Landeen said he and his community are all in this together and need to help each other out.
“I think the problem is all of us owners haven’t exactly done everything they can to be smart, but it’s hard to mix alcohol and restriction,” Landeen said. “It’s hard to be the mask police and make sure every single business is trying as hard as they can to be cautious.”
Miracle Mile’s Monterey Court is also trying to pivot with the city’s new curfew restrictions. The cafe and venue hosts live music until 9 p.m. and the majority of their seating is outdoors. Owner Greg Haver said that with the influx of coronavirus cases across the county his business has suffered greatly.
“We were doing OK through early fall, but now people are clearly a lot more frightened about coming out no matter how safe we make our venue,” Haver said. “I’m not sure if the curfew is adding to that, but it isn’t helping.”
Haver said he’s worried the situation could get worse and trigger another mass shutdown of businesses. Should that happen, Haver isn’t sure Monterey Court will survive without further financial assistance from the city, state or federal government.
“I think the county and city are doing all they can, but it’s never going to be enough to replace the 40% of business we’ve lost since this started,” Haver said. “Unfortunately, we’ve already been shut down for long enough that we don’t have a lot of extra funds to be able to keep it afloat.”
The Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce is also urging business owners to follow the county’s mask mandate to avoid further restrictions with their new Masks Mean Business and So Do We initiative. CEO Amber Smith while the metro chamber doesn’t support the city’s 10 p.m. curfew, she also doesn’t believe they are intentionally targeting the hospitality industry. However, the new restriction has had an “indirect impact” on bars and restaurants, which could get much worse if the business community doesn’t act, she said.
“I don’t think it was their intention, but I certainly think restaurants have been unfairly highlighted as a source of COVID,” Smith said. “Having that curfew is challenging because these restaurants need customers to stay open and most of their revenue comes in between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.”
The City of Tucson announced they’ve allocated an additional $3 million in CARES Act funding to city business owners affected by the curfew and latest restrictions through the We Are One [Somos Uno] Resiliency Fund Small Business Continuity Grant. The grant is being administered by the YWCA Southern Arizona and business owners are encouraged to apply online at ywca.org.