Jesus Bonillas removed the big picnic tables from his indoor food court, American Eat Co. last week, days after Gov. Doug Ducey gave the green light for restaurants to reopen their dining rooms.
In their place, he set up tables that could seat parties of only two or four, spread out to maintain social distancing. The dining room will now seat 65 compared to the 240 it could accommodate pre-coronavirus.
Before reopening the dining room on Wednesday, May 13, Bonillas and his Common Group partners also plan to install plexiglass at the soda fountains, remove all napkin and utensil dispensers and install sanitizer stations throughout the sprawling 8,000-square-foot building that is home to seven restaurants.
On Tucson’s west side, Tanias “33” Mexican Food General Manager Rudy Lira won’t have to go through nearly the effort that Bonillas faced; his small restaurant that has stood at 614 N. Grande Ave. for 35 of its 42 years is a fast-casual spot where most folks come in, pick up burritos, tamales and tacos and take it to go.
Lira said he is opening on Monday, although he was still not clear on Thursday of all the stipulations in Ducey’s order. He said he wanted to make sure that when he opens his dining room at 6 a.m. Monday, he’s following the law.
“Whatever the guidelines are, we will definitely do it,” he said.
Like Bonillas and Lira, restaurant owners throughout Tucson are going through checklists and gut checks as they weigh the option of reopening their dining rooms for the first time since the state ordered them closed in mid-March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. For many, it’s not as easy as turning on the “Open” sign and wiping down the tables. Dining rooms have to be reconfigured, employees have to be rehired and trained on new sanitizing and safe practices protocols and food needs to be ordered, especially for restaurants that didn’t take up the state’s offer back in March to convert their operations to take-out.
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