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Some Valley businesses frustrated with reopening benchmarks

Sage & Sand
Posted at 5:48 PM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 11:16:01-04

PHOENIX — Business owners who had to shut down amid a surge of COVID-19 cases are working to navigate the benchmarks and processes for reopening, while some of them say they have a limited amount of time to stay afloat.

Governor Ducey closed bars, gyms and water parks in a June executive order to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Benchmarks released by the Department of Health Services this week detail what metrics have to register for impacted businesses to work to reopen, and under what guidelines.

"Nobody knows exactly what to do right now," said Lucie Stevens, who owns Lucie's Sage and Sand Bar in Glendale.

Stevens told ABC15 she is falling on tough times during the closure. "I am very, very, very worried about our future," she said, telling ABC15 she took over the bar seven years ago.

Stevens told ABC15 her location has a series 6 liquor license, which is among the businesses impacted by the June executive order. She feels she has the space to socially distance, a kitchen and capability to serve more than enough food to be considered a restaurant.

Her friend, Kimberly O'Donnell, agrees. She runs two establishments, including Kimmyz On Greenway. She feels other than a classification of liquor license, there is not much difference between their businesses and restaurants that are currently open.

Referencing bars, Jeffery Trillo, the Assistant Director of the Licensing and Administration Division for the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, sent ABC15 the following:

"The release of the two Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) requirements documents related to liquor licensed entities run concurrent with Executive Orders 2020-43 and 52. The measure at the outset in determining whether or not a licensee with a series 6 or 7 license operates like a bar or a restaurant remains unchanged. The Department relies on Arizona liquor law, primarily R19-1-206, when assessing if an entity's “primary business is the sale or dispensing of alcoholic beverages”. R19-1-206 publishes the Criteria for Issuing a Restaurant License. A review of the material reveals it is more than quantity of food sales that is considered.

To go along with this, Executive Order 2020-43 does not contemplate or provide for a series 6 or 7 licensee to adjust their operational identity at the outset to come into compliance with the above. A licensed entity is assessed by its operations as evident before Executive Order 2020-40, or June 29, 2020 (Department guidance document).

ADHS's requirements documents published August 10, 2020, now provide a pathway for licensees to alter their operational identity, but those attempting to do so must first meet ADHS conditions to open. This includes meeting color gate code criteria, having in place public health mitigation requirements to operate, attestations document and/or participation in the appeals process where appropriate.

I will close by adding, it has and remains the position of the Department of Liquor that it endeavours to work with licensees to ensure they are aware of the requirements of Arizona’s public health orders. During this pandemic, our highest priority is the health and safety of Arizonans, and we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to enforce these orders. We understand the impact these orders have on licensees, and we appreciate their patience and cooperation as our state works to address COVID-19."