Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday gave the go-ahead for barber shops and salons to open Friday and restaurants to follow on Monday.
Here’s how it’s playing out in Green Valley and Sahuarita as businesses look at whether they’ll reopen, and how.
Green Valley Robin’s Nest owner Paula Payne has been coming into the salon by herself every day just to check on things. On Tuesday morning, she was busy catching up and preparing to reopen Friday.
“Friday we are going to open slowly,” she said. “It’s a huge relief to be able to reopen because I’m a worker, I had a hard time doing nothing. I love my work, my clientele and the girls I work with.”
The salon had lost about three-quarters of its businesses in the time before they were forced to shutter. The impacts of the COVID-19 closures hit them in a big way.
“Well, it's been really bad, we’re a cash flow business,” she said. “We were not lucky enough to get one of the small business loans and we’ve been out-of-pocket with everything.”
Payne said as owner she made sure the bills were paid and that all her employees received unemployment. Employees will start returning to work Thursday to prepare.
The salon has sterilized “to the max,” employees will wear masks and they are asking when clients come in they wear a mask as well. The salon will provide masks to those who don’t have them. They will only take appointments for now and ask clients to be honest about their health.
“The way the shop is set up there will be no chance we’re closer than six feet apart,” she said. “We won’t crowd ourselves.”
Harry Meyer, 20-year owner of Green Valley Barber Shop in Green Valley Village said he’ll be open at 8 a.m. Friday, and can’t wait.
“They want haircuts!” he said of customers who’ve contacted him since he shut down April 4.
He expects all his barbers to return, though it could be slowly at first.
“Once we get open, we’ll be OK,” he said. He said they’ll obey state guidelines, “masking, gloving, disinfecting.”
Other than that, “I think it’s going to be pretty much business as usual.”
Meyer acknowledges not being happy with the statewide closures early on.
“I was against shutting down the country and destroying the economy and putting all these people out of work,” he said. “But, yes, of course I can understand the reasons why they did it, and it at the end of the day, who knows, it probably did keep the spread of the virus down.”
Kim Eisele, president of The Animal League of Green Valley, said while they are excited by the governor’s latest announcement, they are staying on the safe side and will not be reopening The Attic until they hear more May 15, when the stay-at-home order is supposed to be lifted.
“We’re doing some kind of ‘testing the waters’ with all of our volunteers,” she said. “A lot of our volunteers are fearful of the virus, of it being on donated items, so we are coming up with plans to take items going in.”
The Attic is essential in the financial stability of the Animal League and Eisele said normally they take in $1,300 to $1,700 a day, so losses have been substantial.
She said the community has been supportive and they have been getting continuous donations. It doesn’t make up for the losses, but it helps and they are unwilling to risk the well-being of their volunteers at this point.
“It’s a dual-edged sword because if you open too soon you risk having to close again. But we, of course, want to be able to bring in some money for the cats and dogs,” she said. “We’re also kind of looking at the rest of the community to see what's happening and what we’re seeing is a lot of places aren’t opening up yet, they seem to be more cautious.”
Trendz Consignment Boutique in Green Valley Village has brought in zero revenue since they closed in mid-March.
Owner Janice Brown said January through April are normally their busiest months and bringing in no money has had a big impact.
Brown said all employees will be returning to work, though not right away. They are looking at Friday as a soft opening since she’s unsure what kind of business the day will bring.
“We are super happy to open to see how everything goes,” she said. “We are sanitizing a lot, we’ll be wearing masks and we want our customers to wear masks.”
The store will be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday and they will limit the number of people on the sales floor to 10.
Brown said Tuesday was the store’s fifth anniversary and they had a party planned, though it was canceled. She is excited to open the doors again, but does not know what to expect Friday.
“It is what it is,” she said. “God provides.”
David Baxter, district manager for Denny’s, which includes the location in Sahuarita, said the restaurant’s dine-in area would reopen Monday.
“Oh, my gosh, we’re all excited,” he said. “We’ve been stir-crazy. We’re going to follow every guideline we can.”
Following those protocols should make an impression when customers return.
Baxter said employees will have masks and gloves and will keep a two-foot distance while taking orders. The location plans to reduce its occupancy by 50 percent.
Baxter said customers would get portioned condiments and pre-packaged salt and pepper. Nothing, including silverware, will be on the tables before a customer is seated, he said. The location will also be switching from laminated menus to paper menus to reduces shared surfaces.
The eased restrictions on dine-in come as the shutdown caused steep employment cutbacks and drops in business for the location.
Baxter said the restaurant took a 90 percent drop in business and only had 10 percent of employees retained through the shutdown. He said curbside service dropped the losses to 80 percent.
He said they plan to bring back another 25 percent of the staff for renewed dine-in service.
It wasn’t just Denny’s that kept the lights on with curbside orders.
Don Herk is the owner of Arizona Family Restaurant. He said they lost about 80 percent of their business overall.
“It happened at the exact worst time possible for this area during our busy season,,” he said. “And then it ends right when our busy season is over, and now we’re into the slower season.”
Looking back, Herk said he would have saved more money if he closed entirely during the shutdown rather than relying on the curbside-only orders. However, he said he didn’t regret the decision because it provided hours for employees, and customers told them they appreciated their efforts.
The restaurant plans to open Monday but won’t get rid of the curbside service any time soon.
“Some people aren’t going to be ready to go out right away,” Herk said. “Our food supplier did some sort of study where they say 38 percent of people are going to
venture out right away, but there’s a lot where it’s going to take a while before they decide to go out.”
And there will be some noticeable differences for those who do dine-in. The restaurant plans to seat every other table to maintain social distancing between parties.
Herk said while the number of people sitting at different tables would vary, he expected about around a 50 percent reduction in occupancy.
Employees will be wearing gloves and masks as well as taking their temperature before arriving for work.
While some restaurants are eager to open their dine-in services to the public, some plan a phased reopening of their own.
Lina Lin said the Panda House on Nogales Highway wouldn’t be opening to dine-in customers Monday — that will happen later in the month.
Panda House closed its dining area March 19 when the county and state first ordered the shutdowns.
Lin said the shutdown hit them hard at first, but overall they lost about a third of their business without dine-in, and other sales increased in April to help compensate.
“In the middle of March, when everything just started happening, that half of the month was not good at all,” she said.
She said pick-up orders had always been a good portion of their sales and that increased, but her husband starting free delivery during the shutdown helped to mitigate the dine-in losses.
Lin said they want to keep the dining area closed for now to be on the safe side and not contribute to any increases in COVID-19 cases and to keep the employees safe.
There are three or four employees still on furlough as of now, and Lin said she wants to bring them all back when they reopen later this month.
However, she said it would depend on whether the employees were comfortable returning to work.
Ray Flores, owner of Pub 22 in Sahuarita, said they will not open Monday but it likely will happen in May. They still offer carryout.
Flores said they are training workers in their restaurants in Sahuarita and Tucson to function in what will be a different environment. He has a 100-point plan he is working off of to safely reopen that looks at everything from food handling to ensure the supply chain remains strong.
Pima County cannot reopen libraries until the governor’s stay-at-home order is lifted May 15. A spokesman said no decision on reopening has been made and that they are preparing protocols for moving forward.
Thomas Becker, owner of Desert Sky Cinema in Sahuarita, said he is eagerly awaiting word from Ducey about when Arizona theaters, concert and music venues can reopen.
The movie theater closed March 20, "and it's really hurting us," Becker said.
Fifteen Desert Sky employees have been laid off for more than six weeks, and Becker plans to hire all of them back as soon as they reopen, likely with reduced occupancy limits of 20 percent.