PHOENIX – Several Scottsdale bars and restaurants labeled “bad actors” by Gov. Doug Ducey have shut down temporarily, and they’re pushing back on his allegations that they disregarded safety protocols meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Ducey labeled eight Scottsdale establishments “bad actors” at a news conference Thursday. The admonishment came after city authorities and the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control filed charges on Tuesday against Riot House, El Hefe, Bottled Blonde, International, Pattie’s, Casa Amigos, Hi-Fi and Maya Day and Night Club.
A spokeswoman for Riot Hospitality Group, which manages El Hefe and Riot House, pushed back on the characterization as bad actors. On Thursday, both clubs closed temporarily.
“Before the state reopened, we went through exhaustive efforts, actually going above and beyond the CDC guidelines and what was recommended to us by our licensing authorities,” Lissa Druss of Riot Hospitality Group said in an interview with Cronkite News.
The tension between state leaders and businesses has been reflected in Ducey’s policymaking during COVID-19. The governor banned county and city leaders from establishing mask and distance requirements until one week ago; since then, Maricopa and other counties, as well as several cities, quickly implemented the rules. He encouraged citizens to continue their daily lives and for businesses to begin reopening once the stay-at-home order ended May 15. Videos have surfaced of packed bars and establishments since the reopening of the state.
Druss said the Riot Hospitality establishments were very proactive in trying to follow social distancing rules, and lines outside the restaurants were marked at 6 feet intervals to divide customers into groups. Once inside, security also told guests to wear masks and follow social distancing rules, she said.
Riot House faces a class one misdemeanor, which could result in a $20,000 fine, The Arizona Republic reported.
“There is no playbook for this. We are doing what we can, which is why we took the proactive step we did yesterday,” Druss said.
Maya Day and Night Club also is closing its doors, through the Fourth of July weekend, for health and safety protocols. In a statement, managers said they had been following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but, “unfortunately, some of our patrons have aggressively refused to abide by our operational guidelines and we have no choice but to cease operations for this period of time – and possibly longer – in order to be responsible in support of state and city efforts to preclude the spread of COVID-19.”
Maya set strict guidelines for their staff to follow, said Jason Adler, director of operations for Spellbound Entertainment Group. He complained that Ducey did not give clear guidelines for reopening and most of the instructions put in place were “broad.” Adler said Maya set guidelines that “went above and beyond what the governor said initially.”
Staff were required to be masked at all times, even before Maricopa County officials mandated the move last weekend. Staff were required to have sanitizer on hand, for customers and personal use. Adler posted signage throughout the club reminding customers to social distance, along with warnings that customers were present at their own risk.
It was at times difficult to get customers to comply with the new regulations, he said.
“Sometimes, there is a lot of pushback. We feel like we are trying to control something that we can’t really control with our patrons,” Adler said.
Ultimately, Maya temporarily shut down, and the club’s owners challenged other establishments to follow their lead.
“We want to be a part of the solution, not the problem,” Adler said.
At his news conference, Ducey thanked those who are complying and following the guidelines. He cautioned those who are not, saying, “there will be enforcement, and there will be more for bad actors.”
As of June 26, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 66,458 cases of COVID-19 and 1,535 total deaths in the state. It said a total of 636,950 tests for COVID-19 have been completed in public and private labs in Arizona, and 9.1% of tests have come back positive for the virus that causes the disease.
New testing centers in west Phoenix
Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday committed to increasing drive-thru testing sites in west Phoenix in response to public concern that testing sites in Arizona are overwhelmed.
More than 1,000 people waited in line for up to 13 hours on Saturday in Maryvale on Saturday alone, The Arizona Republic reported. State health director Dr. Cara Christ said more than 60 testing sites have been added since Saturday in west Phoenix.
One player, other members of Diamondback organization test positive
The Arizona Diamondbacks confirmed multiple positive cases of COVID-19, including one player on the roster. In addition, the organization confirmed that one minor league coach and multiple minor league players all tested positive, ABC15 reported.
General Manager Mike Hazen said those who tested positive are quarantining and following proper safety protocols, adding that the organization is awaiting nearly 100 test results, including those for players, staff and himself.
Those who tested positive were asymptomatic, and guidelines have been issued to prioritize player safety. Players and staff who test positive can’t travel with the team or be back in the building until they test negative and are asymptomatic.
Rep. Stanton says local officials failed to protect public
U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, a Democrat who represents Tempe, Mesa, Chandler and parts of Phoenix and Scottsdale, has accused Maricopa County of violating the CDC’s “‘core principles’ of contact tracing for every positive COVID -19 case.”
In a letter Thursday to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Stanton said the state planned for the pandemic poorly and ignored the CDC’s recommendation for the stay-at-home orders. He demanded that Arizona immediately create a plan to contact-trace every case.
“Arizona is in a crisis,” he said, “and because county leaders did not have a plan in place in Maricopa County, our community is ground zero.”
Stanton also criticized the county Board of Supervisors decision two weeks ago to withhold $175 million in COVID-19 related funding for future needs, saying the “crisis is now.”
Megachurch being investigated for safety claims
Dream City Church in north-central Phoenix, which hosted President Donald Trump’s rally Tuesday, has received a “cease and desist” order from Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich regarding claims church leaders made about safety ahead of the rally. In a video, church leaders said their facility had an air filtration system that would “kill 99% of Covid.”
Nearly 3,000 people, including Gov. Ducey and U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, crowded into the church to hear the president’s speech. Few wore masks.
“Statements suggesting that a product could provide nearly guaranteed protection from COVID-19 infections create a misrepresentation or a false promise,” Brnovich’s letter said.
How to help
Banner Health Foundation in Phoenix is accepting homemade masks for patients and workers. For those looking to donate, pack the masks in an empty trunk and pull into the donation line. Please remain in your car and a volunteer will assist. If you are experiencing any symptoms, please do not donate to the site.