Since Gov. Doug Ducey shuttered dine-in services in late March, the dining industry landscape in Arizona has changed dramatically. Restaurants are now open for dine-in services again, but some have voluntarily closed, either to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or due to employees testing positive for the disease.
With that, safety guidelines are always evolving.
Here are some frequently asked questions about what you need to know about dining out in Arizona.
Do restaurants have to shut down if an employee contracts COVID-19?
No. Guidance from the state and federal levels, as well as Maricopa County, all say that no employee who is feeling sick should go to work, but guidance does not require a business to shut down.
Restaurant owners decide case by case if they want to remain open.
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Do restaurants have to tell customers if they’ve had a COVID case?
No. Some do, out of concern for public health, but often the restaurants that tell customers are the same businesses that voluntarily shut down.
There is no requirement from the state or federal government for businesses to inform customers for an employee contracts COVID-19.
Do I have to wear a mask when I go out to eat?
It depends on where you are in Arizona. On Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey put the decision to require masks in the hands of mayors. Some cities are now requiring masks in public settings, with many mayors in support, and individual restaurants have required them for customers waiting to pick up orders.
As of June 19, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa and Tucson are among cities that have announced mask requirements.
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Do restaurants have to follow any health safety requirements?
No. Both the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state are suggestions rather than regulations.
While guidance for restaurants providing dine-in services from the governor’s office covers many of the same topics as those from the CDC, the wording within specific areas is sometimes softer. However, the guidance from Arizona says to follow CDC guidance “under all circumstances,” and the CDC lists its guidance simply as “considerations” for restaurants and bars, and is clear that businesses should work “in collaboration with state and local health officials” on implementing suggestions and adjusting if necessary.
“These considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which businesses must comply,” the CDC website states.
So, even when specific CDC guidelines seem more robust, those are still within the overall framework of simply being considerations.
Is it safer to dine inside or outside?
It is safer to be outside in public spaces during coronavirus. Of course, during the summers in Arizona, there are other health considerations before sitting outside. Still, when it comes to recirculating coronavirus droplets, experts say there is a lower risk outside.
Can bars and clubs be open?
Technically, yes, as long as they also serve food.
What are the requirements on the food front? That’s not particularly clear. As long as there is food of some sort available for purchase, a bar or club can be considered a restaurant and therefore can be open.
Are to-go cocktails and drive-thru margaritas still allowed?
Yes. At least, for now. An executive order relaxed enforcement of liquor laws, making takeout and delivery alcohol possible.
However, that has not changed the laws themselves. It is likely that bar and restaurant owners will lobby to continue this method in the future.
Tirion Morris contributed to this story.
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