‘We Have No Choice’: Business Owners Defy Ducey’s Order And Reopen

businesses reopen

Customers eat inside the Horseshoe Cafe Friday, May 1, 2020, in Wickenburg, Ariz. A few small businesses reopened in defiance of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's decision to extend a statewide stay-at-home order for another two weeks in. The Gov. extended the stay at home order in an effort to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Matt York)

By Jessica Swarner

May 1, 2020

Business owners who are defying Gov. Ducey’s extended stay-at-home order say they have no choice because they have not received any stimulus relief.

After Gov. Doug Ducey extended Arizona’s stay-at-home order this week with modifications through mid-May, many small business owners who have been financially hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and were hoping to be allowed to reopen Friday expressed anger. 

Some went as far as to say they would open their doors anyway because they felt they couldn’t stand to lose any more money. They have yet to receive stimulus relief from the government.

Barbara Jean McAtlin, CEO of Frontier Tattoo Company in San Tan Valley, said her shop opened for appointments Friday, but staff will be taking “full infectious disease protocols,” including cleaning the shop after every client. 

McAtlin told The Copper Courier her business closed a week prior to the stay-at-home order to be proactive, and since then, she has not received any government funding. 

“What started off as a two-week closure ended up being five,” McAtlin said in an email. “We just celebrated our sixth anniversary. We have every intention of celebrating our seventh.”

She said she feels responsible for the six families who rely on incomes from the tattoo parlor to pay their bills. 

“One of our artists has a three-month-old baby. One cares for his elderly mother. Another has two teenage girls. Another is a single mother. My husband and I just bought a new home,” McAtlin said. “We all need to work.” 

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McAtlin said about an hour after her shop opened that she had not run into issues with the police. 

“We have a very good relationship with law enforcement around here,” she said. “We’re cop-friendly and they know it. We don’t cause any trouble and our sheriff is all about the constitution.” 

Wendy Acuna, owner of The Beauty Mark salon in Surprise, said she also opened her doors Friday. She told The Copper Courier her staff used masks and gloves and sanitized stations between clients before the pandemic, and they will continue to do so. 

Acuna said she was denied loans she applied for and can’t keep up with rental costs if she doesn’t begin taking customers again now. 

“We cannot keep our businesses that we bleed our blood, sweat, and tears into without help!” she said in an email. “We have no choice but to open!” 

Acuna didn’t report any issues with the police Friday and said she and many others are “not afraid” because they know that local officials and law enforcement officers understand the difficult situation business owners are experiencing. 

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However, at least two small business owners did receive a visit from the police.

Deb Thompson, owner of the Horseshoe Cafe in Wickenburg, opened her restaurant dining room Friday. Two police officers showed up in the morning with a copy of the executive order and asked Thompson to have the diners leave, according to The Associated Press.

Thompson, who said she has been lucky if she makes $100 in one day since the pandemic began, told her customers she would not close and that she would be arrested if needed. 

The AP reported that the Horsehoe Cafe’s neighbor, Bedoian’s Bakery & Bistro, also opened Friday and was told by police to close down.

Another small business owner, Anthony Dynar of Mane Extension Bar in Scottsdale, said he didn’t take customers Friday but protested by opening his salon and handing out items curbside for free.

He said he finally began receiving unemployment benefits this week due to his previous work in the real estate industry, but he knows many hairdressers and other workers won’t be able to receive benefits until after May 12, when Arizona launches its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system.

RELATED: Some States Have Started Paying Self-Employed Workers Unemployment. But Not Arizona.

Dynar said he has considered himself a “proud supporter” of Ducey up until this point.

“I don’t enjoy seeing him lose faith in the small business community and thinking we don’t have the ability to compete safely with big box stores,” Dynar said.

The governor’s order allows for retail stores to begin opening in phases starting Monday. Despite a provision about “appointment-based services” being allowed to also start up again Monday, the governor’s office later clarified that did not include salons. Ducey’s update Wednesday did not reference a date for when salons, restaurant dining rooms, and bars can begin seeing customers. 

The state’s stay-at-home order, issued March 31, was set to expire April 30. Protesters held rallies through the month to call on Ducey to allow it to fade out and for businesses to reopen. 

However, health experts and other officials raised concerns over relaxed infections leading to more COVID-19 cases and deaths. Multiple leaders have pointed out that Arizona has not yet met a set of guidelines the White House released that show when states can begin the economic recovery process. 

RELATED: Expert Says Reopening Arizona Depends on How Many COVID-19 Deaths We Find Acceptable

A University of Arizona epidemiologist told The Copper Courier earlier this week that deciding on when to reopen “really comes down to what number of deaths we consider acceptable.”

Associate Professor Dr. Sydney Pettygrove said while economic concerns are important, she feels health concerns need to be weighed. 

“I do understand the pressures that people are feeling to get back to work. They’re not able to pay their bills. They’re not able to provide for their families … but that’s one side of the balance,” Pettygrove said. “And on the other side of the balance is life. Are we willing to decide that a certain number of deaths are just going to be unavoidable?”

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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