Photo by Alicia Barrón Artwork by Karla Osete at Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce
Photo by Alicia Barrón

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.

El Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant

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

El Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant

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

El Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant

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.

El Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant

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

Canton Restaurant

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

Worker at Canton Restaurant

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

Canton Restaurant

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

Canton Restaurant

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.

Zula’s Restaurant

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.

Zula’s Restaurant

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.

Tito’s Pizza/Italian Eatery

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

Tito’s Pizza/Italian Eatery

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

Worker at Tito’s Pizza/Italian Eatery

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

Tito’s Pizza/Italian Eatery

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

Tito’s Pizza/Italian Eatery

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.

#ShopSmall because business saves businesses

Now, more than ever, small businesses need your support. Our team at the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure we are doing all we can to support our business community during these uncertain times.⁣ ⁣⁣⁣And here’s how you make a difference to support our local business community:⁣⁣✅ A large number of our local restaurants are offering takeout options; order your meals to go!⁣⁣✅ If you are financially able to do so, tip a little extra to the restaurants, salons and other service industries you may visit.⁣⁣✅ Unable to shop or dine in right now? Buy a gift card from a local business to use later on. ⁣⁣⁣⁣Social media can play a huge role in supporting the local community. Lead by example and encourage your online following to support local businesses too! Because when we support one another, we can move forward so we encourage you to #SpendLocalGrowTogether! ⁣⁣Video content captured by Byanca Parra Photography. ⁣⁣#ShopSmall #SupportLocalBiz #SouthernArizona #NogalesArizona

Posted by Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce on Monday, March 23, 2020

“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.” 

𝘖𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰-𝘨𝘰 𝘰𝘳 𝘥𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘧𝘢𝘷𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘤𝘢𝘭 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘕𝘰𝘨𝘢𝘭𝘦𝘴-𝘚𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘢 𝘊𝘳𝘶𝘻 𝘊𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘺!⁣⁣ Please note this…

Posted by Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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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