Arizona restaurants focused on health and safety as customers return

Governor Doug Ducey last month lifted all Covid-19 restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses. But that doesn’t mean that dining and drinking establishments are taking off their masks and packing in crowds. 

Far from it, said the president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association (ARA), Steve Chucri.

“Restaurants across Arizona have done an incredible job at implementing mitigation measures, protecting patrons and staff, and remaining flexible,” Chucri said. “Our restaurants know what to do and they’re first priority is keeping employees and diners safe.”

Steve Churcri

Federal guidelines also require employers take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he said.

To discourage bad players, the association is working to educate operators about federal health and safety guidelines, help get hospitality employees vaccinated, and assist employers with obtaining grants and aid to help pay for supplies like personal protective equipment. 

Under federal guidelines, employer’s duty to prevent spread of COVID-19

Governor Ducey’s order lifted restaurant specific requirements such as social distancing and buffet prohibitions. It also eliminated mask mandates. 

Employers, however, should be aware of their obligation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), Chucri said. Under the act’s guidelines, employers must protect employees from COVID-19 hazards at the workplace. That includes providing masks, social distancing, and enhanced sanitation protocols. 

OSHA also recently updated its guidance on COVID-19 and is in the process of developing additional standards for employers. Before revising a mask policy for employees or customers, operators should consider the OSHA guidelines, Chucri said. 

“While we do not have specific examples of how OSHA will enforce these provisions in restaurants, we do know that the restaurant industry is high on the agency’s priority list.” 

Before making any changes, Chucri recommends that operators review the OSHA guidance document: Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.

Encouraging Arizonans to get out of the kitchen

With more than 4 million Arizonans having received at least one dose of vaccine, business is picking up at bars and restaurants statewide. The association, chambers of commerce and restaurant owners are encouraging  Arizonans to get out of the kitchen and head to their favorite restaurant or night spot, even if just for takeout. 

“Most edible time of the year” – Spring Restaurant Week

One way to start is to dine in or take out during 2021 Spring Restaurant Week Friday May 21 to Sunday May 30. This annual statewide event takes diners on a taste tour. Eateries offer a prix-fixe dinner menu for $33 or $44 per person or per couple. 

Restaurants already on board this year are Elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort, T. Cook’s at Royal Palms Resort & Spa, Citizen Public House and The Gladly, and more. There are also West Valley restaurants, like Litchfield’s and Red’s Bar and Grill at The Wigwam, plus Urban Margarita and Arrowhead Grill. Other participants include Buck &Rider and Pedal Haus Brewery, according to the Phoenix New Times, a sponsor of the event. Currently, restaurants can still sign up. For diners, a list of participating restaurants and menus will be posted soon at Spring Restaurant Week

Victoria Harker

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