The COVID-19 pandemic has financially impacted a lot of economic sectors, but local restaurants remain one of the hardest hit sectors and they continue to struggle as Arizona and the larger United States fight to control the spread of the virus.
Because of this, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to delay a previously scheduled restaurant permit rate increase and provide credits to businesses that have already paid the higher fee.
According to a county press release, the fee increase was originally adopted in 2016 as a way to recover costs incurred by the Pima County Health Department Consumer Health and Food Safety department. They perform regular restaurant safety inspections and have recently been tasked with enforcing increased health and safety standards in restaurants related to the current public health crisis.
The fee was planned to increase gradually over five years, and the supervisors’ decision yesterday will delay the final increase of 25 percent. The county says these extra costs were partially offset by their Restaurant Incentive Program, which allows restaurants to save up to 25 percent on their permitting fees if they adopt certain practices such as having a certified food handler on staff, eliminating trans-fats in their food and posting nutritional information on their menus.
Restaurants can still apply for these savings through the program, as it is not affected by this recent change in fees. It is currently unclear when the fee might be reinstated.
“The pandemic was a big blow to many local restaurants. We’ve strived to support our restaurants as they adapt, while keeping the broader community safe,” said Director Loni Anderson of the Consumer Health and Food Safety Division. “We know that the vast majority of restaurants have a passion for what they do, and want to do right by their customers. The Restaurant Incentive Program, and today’s delay, are designed to benefit restaurant owners, and the whole of Pima County.”