Mayor Regina Romero announced on March 17 that all restaurants and bars in the City of Tucson will be closed except for take-out and delivery orders. In addition, food courts, gyms and other venues where more than 10 people gather will also be closed through the end of the month.
“My top priority, above all else, is to protect public health,” Romero said. “This is a painful decision that I do not take lightly. Several restaurants have already stopped dine-in service and transitioned to all drive through and curb-side pick-up.”
Restaurants in Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita, South Tucson and unincorporated Pima County remain open as of now.
In addition to the restaurant and bar closures, the City of Tucson also mandated that all service counters and lobbies within city buildings, including Ward offices and City Hall, will be closed through the end of March, but they will continue services and operations electronically. Romero says there will be no interruption in trash, recycling, landfill, or water services; all evictions on city-owned public housing will be suspended through the end of April; and there will be no water shutoffs through the end of April.
Romero said her decision was in conjuncture with closures throughout the City of Phoenix.
These closures follow increasingly strict recommendations by the federal government and the Centers for Disease Control aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. Nationally, the virus’ cases have spiked from the single digits in February to more than 5,000 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, March 17—though this number is believed to be far lower than the total count as many people may not yet be showing symptoms and testing kits remain in short supply.
“I want to reiterate that food being served by our restaurants is safe. It is the congregation of individuals in a dine-in setting that is unsafe,” Romero said. “At this time, the best thing we can do is come together as a community and take care of each other. We’re all in this together. We will get through this.”
Fred Ronstadt, the executive director of the Fourth Avenue Merchant's Association and a former City Council member, expressed frustration that a meeting to discuss options for restaurants and nonprofits did not include his organization or many other stakeholders.
He said today's decision to limit restaurants and bars to take-out and drive-thru service was done despite little consultation with the restaurant community or coordination other local governments such as Oro Valley or Marana.
But Ray Flores, the CEO of Flores Concepts (aka the El Charro empire) who attended yesterday's meeting with Romero, said he supported the decision.
"We understand the severity and gravity of the situation you are navigating in regards to the COVID-19 outbreak and we are here to stand by you and our beloved community during this most difficult time."
Flores' letter listed a number of other restaurants that also supported the decision, including DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails, Todd Hanley of Hotel Congress, Beyond Bread, Tito and Pep Restaurant, American Eat Co., Penca, Rocco's Pizza, Reilly Pizza, Diablo Burger and others.