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Small businesses say executive order halting evictions will help them stay afloat

Breadfruit closed during coronavirus pandemic
Posted at 10:24 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 01:24:31-04

PHOENIX — As health care leaders continue to grapple with the growing number of infected Arizonans, Governor Doug Ducey has issued another executive order to address the massive economic fallout.

Monday, the governor ordering an end to all evictions on small businesses through May 31, 2020.

At The Breadfruit and Rum Bar, there is a sign on the door that states "closed until further notice."

"I am one of so many small businesses in Arizona that, to this day, cannot pay the rent on their properties," said Executive Chef Danielle Leoni, who is also the co-owner.

Leoni also heads up the Arizona Small Restaurant Coalition and has heard the desperate pleas from many fellow small business owners. "I have no leverage and I don’t know what’s going to happen to me," said Leoni.

Some landlords, like the one at Leoni's downtown restaurant, are helping businesses survive. But she has a second property for a new business she is starting.

"So at my other location I don’t have a landlord that cares enough to work with me," she said. "And that person is not invested in this community thriving."

So Chef Leoni was quietly preparing for an eviction, while loudly calling for help. "For weeks I have been asking, advocating, calling, texting, emailing, everything I could possibly do, to get Governor Ducey’s attention," said Leoni.

Monday, it was clear the governor heard her. Governor Ducey issued an Executive Order, halting all evictions for small businesses through May 31.

"He threw us a lifeline," she said. "Governor Ducey‘s executive order meant the world to us, because now it is not up to that landlord's opinion, or emotions. But it’s a matter of fact that we will stay in business."

In the order Ducey says commercial landlords should "consider deferring or adjusting rent payments for commercial tenants who are unable to pay rent due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."

"Knowing that I have a little bit of cushion, and granted it’s only for a couple of months, through the month of May, will let us get our feet under us," said Leoni.

The rent still has to be paid. "It’s not permission to forgo our payments," said Leoni. "We have to pay our rent and I want people to pay their rent. We just need a little bit of time to figure out how we’re going to pay it."

A co-owner of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company, in both Gilbert and Phoenix, told ABC15 that the order allows him to focus on paying employees and staying afloat.

"We have to save small businesses so everyone can thrive," said Leoni.

No one knows the end date of "until further notice," but Chef Leoni is now confident that when the sign goes down, her doors will re-open - along with thousands of other Arizonan entrepreneurs.

"Think about what you love about your neighborhood and today, those places have a chance to actually emerge from this crisis successfully," said Leoni.