October 2, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc for businesses around the globe, some more than others. And this statement couldn’t have been more apt for a few Arizona casinos and bars. Bars in the State shut shop following a government order from March 20 to May 11. However, a few establishments resumed operations thanks to a loophole allowing bars with restaurants to serve patrons.
As the authorities enforced the second round of lockdown on June 29, bar owners, already reeling from huge losses, pushed back against the Government. Two rallies were taken out to the capitol, followed by a lawsuit, and a petition with over 12,000 signatures. The Governor’s office received countless telephones requesting permission to resume operations.
However, the situation is more or less the same, as bars with restaurants have been granted permission to operate following strict physical distancing norms, as bars without restaurants continue to remain shut.
The updated statewide coronavirus tally showed the number of cases dwindling in Pima and Maricopa counties, bringing down the threat level from substantial to moderate. Thus, allowing bars that serve food to finally reopen for business. However, nightclubs must remain shut. Businesses that reopen illegally were found violating direct orders and subsequently shut down by the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.
Bars with a series-11 license were exempt from lockdown rules as these are exclusively issued to motels and hotels. Bars holding series 6 or 7 licenses fell under the purview of the Government’s directives and had to shut shop immediately. Naturally, some people felt the regulations were unfair. But there were no loopholes for hotel bars, as these establishments would have to follow the executive orders and public health directives to adjust their services.
Holding a series-11 license does not grant special business power to ignore the law. In fact, hotels with a series-11 license need to adhere to state-mandated health and public safety protocols. And bars within these hotels need to closely follow directives laid out by the Dept. of Health Services. However, the directive to remain open was passed on May 4, following Governor Ducey’s exclusive orders.
Along with hotel bars, a few casino bars continued serving guests amid the pandemic and lockdown. This is largely owing to their location. Most casinos in the State are within tribal boundaries. And while the State’s directives are valid on these lands, they aren’t enforced. The authorities are working closely with the tribes, offering help, and providing operational guidelines on safety measures, to prevent community spread through these businesses.
Some institutions have temporarily banned public smoking since smokers need to remove their masks in public. Meanwhile, a section of casino owners has now decided to temporarily cut down operations by half. However, tribal lands remain sovereign, and the Government does not have the final word in business operations within the area.
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