PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he expects to lift restrictions on restaurant dining rooms sometime in May, potentially as early as May 12, referring to that date as a "best case scenerio," but wants to make sure there are guidelines in place to protect restaurant employees and customers from COVID-19.
For the time being, however, restaurant dining rooms will remain closed and owners will have to continue to handle orders via takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery.
Ducey said during a Wednesday news conference that he expects to release more information next week after meeting with local restaurant leaders, including the Arizona Restaurant Association, and following updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"Our goal is to do this sometime in May," Ducey said, referring to the potential opening of restaurant dining rooms. "We are inspirational at this time. The best case scenario, according to the industry, would be on May 12. But it will have to be in coordination with the industry and public health. Our goal is to get this open in May. We're working with the leaders in the industry for best practices."
WHAT WILL THAT LOOK LIKE?
As far as what people could expect once restaurant dining rooms were reopened, Ducey said it could include servers wearing masks, letting customers know that they had just washed their hands, or asking how they would prefer their food to be delivered to them.
In a Zoom interview following Ducey's press conference, Steve Chucri, CEO and president of the Arizona Restaurant Association, and an elected member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said he and the association's board are in communication with the governor's office about best practices and guidelines.
He said customers can likely expect a restaurant's kitchen staff to wear masks and gloves, to potentially have employees undergo temperature checks before walking into work, and to increase the frequency of cleanings.
"You’re going to see far larger scale of sterilization meaning the menus will be wiped down after every single use with a strong detergent; door handles, whether it be to the bathroom, front door, anywhere in the restaurant, will be on a regular rotation to be wiped down with detergent or a solution to kill the virus," Cuchri said.
He said he expects restaurants to have to spread out their dining room tables and chairs and, in some cases, may even have to reduce the total amount of people that can eat in their dining room. He said restaurants that have bars inside their dining room, they may have to remove the chairs or stools or space them out,
In terms of busy restaurants that typically have waits, Cuchri said customers may notice more restaurants going to text-based programs to let them know when their table is ready.
"The public is going to decide how comfortable they feeling coming back to a restaurant," he said. "It’s our job to make sure we’re preparing the environment for those people to come in and dine."
During the press conference, Ducey announced that he extended the state's stay-at-home order by two weeks to May 15 and also loosened restrictions for small businesses and stores. Read Ducey's Executive Order.
Beginning on May 4, retail businesses can voluntarily reopen for curbside pickup and delivery. On May 8, those businesses and stores can fully open for business "provided they establish and implement protocols and best practices for businesses to address COVID-19..." Ducey's executive order states, such as cleanliness and social distancing.
Sheldon Knapp, co-owner of Phoenix City Grille, a restaurant near 16th Street and Bethany Home Road, told ABC15 that he anticipates making some changes to his bringing room, but isn't sure how masks and gloves will impact diners' experiences.
"We will be taking some tables out. We're putting more glass guards between the booths on the back to the booths. The one thing I can’t picture is our servers wearing masks and gloves. I think it’s necessary but the gloves, how that whole thing works, I really don’t know because you’re constantly touching things," he said.