5 Tips for Checking Arizona Restaurant COVID-19 Safety Precautions

Deciding to visit a restaurant during the current pandemic can be difficult.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced on March 25 that COVID-related restrictions on businesses, including restaurants and bars, have been lifted. Owners now have the choice of whether they wish to resume pre-pandemic operations. On the other hand, they also have the right to continue to enforce the wearing of the mask and other rules on their properties.

Without a set of rules for businesses to follow, customers can encounter different environments depending on where they go.

TO Linger Longer Lounge in Phoenix, the main bar is closed and guests can sit in the games room or outside. Co-owner Jade Noble told The Republic in March that customers told her they specifically visited her business for their first outing after staying home for months because the bar took a hit. strict stance on safety throughout the pandemic.

At the Thunderbird Lounge, co-owner Geremiah Gratza says he’s delighted that he doesn’t have to be the “masked police”. At Nook Kitchen, masks are mandatory for staff but are optional for guests, owner Frank Vairotold The Arizona Republic via text message. At Piazza Al Forno in Glendale, guests who do not wish to wear masks are asked to sit on the patio. Nightclubs in Old Town Scottsdale are largely operating as they were before the pandemic.

National health experts from the Centers for Disease Control say it’s a bad idea. CDC Says Takeout, Drive-Thru, and Curbside Food Safest Optionsto dine out.For open restaurants, the CDC recommends outdoor seating, social distancing, and mask wearing.

As of March 31, Arizona’s COVID-19 case rate was one of the best in the country. But the state still has a long way to go as only about 20% of Arizona’s eligible population is currently vaccinated.

Here are some tips on how to find a business where you can be most comfortable.

Check social media for security policies

A sign at the front door of Belly, a restaurant at the intersection of Seventh Street and Camelback Road in Phoenix on March 31, 2021. Belly opened during the pandemic starting with take out only and is gradually moved to the restaurant.

Chef Michael Babcock is co-owner of Belly, a Vietnamese-inspired restaurant on Seventh Avenue near Camelback Road.

Ducey’s announcement to lift the rules didn’t change Belly anything, Babcock says. Masks are still needed and safety precautions including Plexiglas dividers between tables and increased sanitation regimes are still in place. Babcock says the team is waiting for more of the population to be vaccinated before relaxing the rules.

Customers wondering what the regulations are should check social media, Babcock says, as the team posts updates to the restaurant’s Instagram feed.

If customers don’t want to wear a mask, they can order takeout, Babcock says.

“It’s a very personal political issue. But just like we need shirts and shoes, right now we need masks,” he said.

Is it safe to dine on site? :8 questions answered about Arizona restaurants and COVID-19

Use participatory information online

Babcock also says he found a recent discussion thread on Reddit useful. The news and discussion aggregation site has a dedicated Phoenix page where members have contributed to a discussion thread about businesses in the Phoenix metro area that are still in need of masks.

As of March 31, the post had almost 300 comments. Some are about other businesses, including gyms and cinemas, but many are talking about local restaurants.

Some reviews of restaurants with terraces also indicate whether mask requirements differ for indoor and outdoor seating.

Visit Yelp for COVID-19 Updates

John Brawner, left, and Nathan Delcie, both of Phoenix, dine at a table separated by clear partitions for COVID-19 concerns, at Belly, a restaurant at the intersection of Seventh Street and Camelback Road in Phoenix on March 31, 2021. Belly opened during the pandemic starting with take-out only and gradually transformed into a restaurant.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, some restaurateurs have urged customers not to use Yelp to criticize businesses during a difficult time.

But the online review website may contain useful information regarding security measures.

In January 2021, Yelp added a section at the top of every restaurant page showing COVID-19 updates with sections for “Services updated” and “Health and safety measures”.

These sections indicate whether restaurants are open only on-site or take-out, whether masks are required, whether staff wear masks, and whether business capacity is limited, among other things.

It is important to note that restaurants should add most of this information to their pages. If a restaurant posts online that it follows certain rules, the app may differ in person.

Yelp users can also submit reviews based on their experience with restaurant social distancing and whether they’ve observed staff wearing masks.

Call the restaurant before you go

Paul Waxman, co-owner of Belly, brings dishes to a customer at Restaurant Belly, a restaurant located at the intersection of Seventh Street and Camelback Road in Phoenix on March 31, 2021. Belly opened during the pandemic starting with the dishes at take out only and gradually settled in the restaurant.

If online forums and social media don’t cover the restaurant you want to visit, call and ask. Questions about the rules in place, whether reservations are required or recommended, and recent restaurant occupancy can help customers decide whether they will feel comfortable.

Some businesses, including Nook Kitchen and La Piazza al Forno, have signs explaining their masks policies posted in restaurants but have no rules listed online.

But if customers want to know before they go to a restaurant, calling ahead can make sure they know what is expected of them.

Four Peaks Brewing Company has not posted any protocols on its social media pages, but has a dedicated page on its website.

The Tempe pub has maintained many of the same safety rules since the start of the pandemic. The temperature of the personnel is checked before each shift and wears masks and gloves. The menus are all electronic and the brewery does not stock pre-used growlers. Tables are spaced out and seating is limited to half the capacity, with an effort being made to fill the outside seats first.

But if customers aren’t sure what to expect, communications manager Zach Fowle says people are always welcome.

“It’s obviously confusing for people right now, because the rules that may be in place in one restaurant may not be in place in another,” he says. “So the best way to find out is to call the restaurant. “

Don’t be afraid to leave

No matter how much customers research and plan ahead, it is possible to visit a restaurant and feel uncomfortable.

Justin Piazza owns La Piazza Al Forno in downtown Glendale. Its current policy is that masks are mandatory inside the restaurant. If guests do not want to wear masks, they can sit on the terrace.

Piazza says that when he and his family dine out, they look for companies that follow safety rules. He mainly sticks to alfresco dining and terraces where his family feels safe. But if a family member is worried, they find another place to eat.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t feel comfortable, we’ll leave,” he says.

Contact the reporter at tirion.morris@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tirionmorris, on Facebook at Tirion Rose and on Instagram at tirionrose.

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Susan W. Lloyd