IN PHOTOS: What Happens When A Restaurant Reopens During A Pandemic

Photo by Alicia Barrón

By Alicia Barrón

May 27, 2020

Restaurants — big and small — had to quickly adapt during social distancing to offer either delivery, take-out, or both. Here’s how the reopening looks like.

It’s been nearly a month since restaurants in Arizona have been allowed to reopen for dine-in services, and shop owners throughout the state are navigating opening back up while adhering to the state’s social distancing guidelines.

In border towns like Nogales, where businesses and residents are split between two countries tackling the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have been cut off from customers who are no longer able to easily cross the border.

To help make the process a little easier, the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce has been working with local eateries as they struggle to stay afloat.

“Given that the state is sharing new regulations on how restaurants and other businesses can reopen,” said Chamber of Commerce Public Relations Manager Alexis Kramer-Ainza. “Many business owners have been hard at work strategizing on how to implement new ways that will benefit both their business and customer.”

We dropped by four local restaurants in Nogales, Arizona, over the weekend to find out if they were open, and what their new business hours looked like. This is what we saw.

El Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant is located less than a mile from the U.S. Mexico border.

They reopened for dine-in on May 16, seating customers at every other table.

Before you walk in, there are three pages on the window displaying a list of “Guidance for Restaurants Providing Dine-In Service.”

A sign as you walk in displays the restaurant’s temporary hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The sign also reads: “Please wash your hands before taking a seat. Thank you!”

We were told El Rancho Grande was able to stay open for take-out during the state shutdown.

Then we swung by Canton Restaurant, a popular eatery that serves Cantonese food in midtown Nogales.

The attendant was busy on the phone taking order after order as take-out bags lay ready for pick-up nearby.

According to Canton Restaurant’s manager, the shop plans to stick with only take-out orders indefinitely.

They are now open weekdays between noon and 4 p.m., weekends between noon and 5 p.m., and are closed on Tuesdays.

The next stop was at longtime local restaurant Zula’s, owned by the Papachoris Family. The restaurant located at 982 N Grand Avenue has been open in Nogales since 1950 – until now.

The doors were locked, it was empty inside, and there was a message from the owners letting their “valued customers” know they would be closing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It reads: “With a heavy heart we announce we have decided to close temporarily, in accordance with state and federal gathering guidelines in order to slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We value our customers and look forward to serving you again once the regulations are lifted.”

The last stop was at Tito’s Pizza/Italian Eatery at 1855 N. Grand Avenue.

They reopened for dine-in on May 11, but the restaurant was empty on Sunday afternoon.

Workers inside the restaurant said business had been so-so during the week.

They are taking proper precautions by seating people at every other table.

The restaurant is also offering a take-out option to their customers.

The Chamber of Commerce is encouraging the community to support local restaurants with initiatives like this video showing people how easy it is to order your food from your favorite local spot to go.

“Many businesses had to quickly restructure and create new ways to serve their clientele including curbside pick-up and delivery options at local restaurants,” Kramer-Ainza said. “Our main focus is to encourage the business community to reinforce safe hygiene protocols and to practice social distancing in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

The Chamber of Commerce is also helping business owners who may need additional funding apply for various loan programs to help ease any financial hardship resulting from the pandemic.

“Like any city across the country, small businesses are the backbone of the economy where thanks to them, they help fuel fundamental economic growth on many important levels,” Kramer-Ainza said.

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