NewsArizona News


Phoenix restaurants, bars brace for impact of closures following state of emergency

Empty restaurants in Arizona
Posted at 9:40 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 01:22:56-04

Thousands of people across the Valley are without a job and paycheck indefinitely.

Employees were sent home after Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego declared a state of emergency, prompting the immediate closure of bars and moving restaurants to delivery, takeout, and drive-thru only, which went into effect at 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

FULL COVERAGE: Everything you need to know about coronavirus

"It's usually a very vibrant street," said Carly Logan. But Tuesday Roosevelt Row was silent.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. was empty, save a few lingering employees. Saturday afternoon the brewery was at capacity.

"Right now it's about survival for tomorrow," said Jonathan Buford.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. co-founders Patrick Ware and Buford decided Tuesday morning to suspend in-person dining and drinking and move to take-out and pick-up only.

"We have upwards of 150 staff members that we had to let know things are changing," said Ware.

The Valley brewing company, with locations in Phoenix and Gilbert, is retaining all the salaried employees and hopes to give others delivery work.

"We're going to make sure employees can get a meal every day here," said Buford.

Across the street at Carly's Bistro, owner Carly Logan is also making cutbacks to survive.

"Most restaurants, including ours, are having to drastically reduce hours in order to sustain this," she said.

"I feel very concerned for the people. We are a small business and our staff is family. We want to make sure everyone is taken care of."

Arizona State University Junior Nick was eating at Carly's Tuesday afternoon.

"It kind of sucks honestly," said Nick. "Today is kind of my last day of freedom."

Nick is also a steakhouse server. "We're shutting down business tomorrow," he said, hoping to get some paid leave.

Sun Devil sophomore Emma also worked in the restaurant business, as a server at Pita Jungle. "So I don't have a job, for the moment," she said.

The coronavirus pandemic devastates a community's health, but business owners fear it could devastate their livelihood.

"I think a recession at this point is probably inevitable," said Logan.

"It is going to take us a long time to dig out from this," said Mayor Kate Gallego. "We will do what we can as government to cushion the impact."

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. managers already expect they will be requesting aid in the coming weeks, from either a bank or the government.

"The next couple of weeks are going to be a big dictator for us. If we can see at least a fraction of sales, then we can report that and get some help from an external source," said Ware. "Our revenues have been cut by 75, up to 90 percent. Can we get a little bit of help to at least keep our staff around?"

How COVID-19 will spread in Arizona is unknown. Testing has been limited and as of the state of emergency, there are less than 20 confirmed cases. But the men and women that work in restaurants and bars are getting ready to take a huge hit, and they do not know for how long.

"We're just hopeful everyone is able to be here at the end of this crisis," said Logan.

"There's not a lot of positive today. But every single one of us is ready to fight," said Buford.

Small businesses say they have a better chance of surviving and retaining employees if people continue spending the next couple weeks.

If you are able, and still have a job, owners urge you to please consider buying a gift card for future use or ordering takeout and pickup.

As for the state of emergency, the mayor's office said there is a 72-hour grace period where "businesses will not be cited by police."

A spokesperson said the citations are unknown at this time, and city council is going to discuss possible penalties tomorrow if businesses do not comply.