PHOENIX — Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order on Wednesday that would allow Arizona restaurants to expand their outdoor patios and be able to seat more people, something that a handful of cities in the Phoenix area have been doing for weeks.
Chandler, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe have all created programs that already allowed some restaurants to extend their patios and increase the number of people they can seat and serve outside.
"Transforming operations for our restaurants isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t cheap, especially during a pandemic," Ducey said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
He also announced that the state would provide an initial investment of $1 million to help restaurants build and furnish those extended patios, including tables and chairs, heaters, barriers, and patio coverings.
Under the "Safest Outside Restaurant Assistance Program," restaurants can apply for up to $10,000 in funding, a news release said.
To qualify for funding, restaurants must be Arizona-owned and operated, have less than 50 employees, have received approval to extend their patio from their local city or town and the Arizona Department of Liquor, and plan to keep their extended patio up for at least three months. Funding will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.
The application would be available on Monday, Dec. 7, the governor's office said in a news release. It will be available here.
The Arizona Office of Tourism would provide $100,000 to the Arizona Restaurant Association to "provide direct consultation to any Arizona dining establishment interested in expanding its premises to increase physical distancing and maximize seating capacity amid the pandemic," according to the news release.
Steve Chucri is president of the Arizona Restaurant Association. He is also an elected member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Speaking at Wednesday's press conference, Chucri said Arizona's restaurants "were slowly recovering" compared to earlier this year when indoor dining rooms were closed as part of the mitigation efforts to reduce crowds and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Chucri said Arizona's restaurant industry, which employs over 230,000 people, had to lay off nearly 80% of its workforce in March, and has lost more than $2 billion.
A couple of weeks ago, The Brickyard in Chandler, a small restaurant and cocktail bar, built a large outdoor patio in front of its front door that added seven tables and 24 seats, part of a City of Chandler program.
"It's going to help my staff, it’s going to help the business, and honestly it's going to keep the doors open," co-owner Gavin Jacobs previously told ABC15.
Down the street, Mingle + Graze, a small shop that sells cheeses and charcuterie boards, also built an outdoor patio. In an email, owner Mahfam Moeeni-Alarcon told ABC15 that the expansion would allow them to add 20 more seats.
"This is crucial for us as, currently, we can only seat only 12 people indoors at 50% capacity," Moeeni-Alarcon said.
The permits for Chandler restaurants are good until May 2021.
The City of Tempe permitted some restaurants to expand their patios back in May and recently extended that allowance until the end of the year.
Nate Cruz, who co-owns Slices on Mill, a local pizza joint, built an 18-foot-by-18-foot patio in the parking spaces in front of his restaurant. He recently told ABC15 in a text message that the patio has allowed him to handle more customers and promote social distancing.
"We get a lot of overflow from the bars on Mill. People can now spread out," he said in a text message.