PHOENIX — Bars that do not or were unable to serve food -- many of which have been shuttered for a year now -- were given the green light to reopen Thursday as Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey lifted more restrictions that were implemented during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under previous rules, most bars with a series 6 or 7 liquor license were allowed to reopen as long as they reopened as a dine-in restaurant and were able to serve food and drinks. However, bars that were unable to serve food were not allowed to reopen until their county's positivity rate fell below 3%, which as of Thursday's was 11% in Maricopa County.
On Thursday, Gov. Ducey lifted restrictions on social distancing and other COVID-19 safety requirements, instead referring to them as recommendations, and allowing businesses to decide which recommendations to follow and ignore. He also lifted restrictions on large events over 50 people.
He encouraged all Arizonans to "practice the fundamentals and act responsibly."
For bars, however, Gov. Ducey said they could "resume regular operations."
Later Thursday, the Arizona Restaurant Association said the lifting of restrictions means restaurants can reimplement buffets and self-service, seat groups larger than 10 people, allow groups and people to congregate in waiting areas and dining rooms, and resume dancing, games, and karaoke.
Ian Juul and his wife own Mooney's Irish Pub in Sedona and are thrilled with the Governor's actions.
"I got a tear in my eye, that's what happened when I read it," he told ABC15.
Juul said the closures over the last year have been terrible and that they've had to take some $200,000 in debt to survive.
He said while he doesn't expect to open at 100% yet, his customers do want to get back to dancing and having a good time.
"I think we are leaning in that direction. I think we're going to put a little bit of a handle on occupancy. Before COVID started we used to get jammed in here, it was a zoo, so I don't think we want to go back to that just yet," he said.