SCOTTSDALE (AP) — Some bars and nightclubs in Scottsdale have temporarily closed — and one was charged — after receiving notices ordering them to comply with social distancing and facial covering requirements as Arizona reports increasing confirmed coronavirus cases.
Scottsdale establishments El Hefe, Riot House and Whiskey Row closed Thursday and will stay closed until at least Sunday, Riot Hospitality Group spokeswoman Lissa Druss said. It was unclear when they will reopen.
The announcement came after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday that Riot House was charged with a misdemeanor for failing to comply after police officers saw customers and employees “not practicing physical distancing, not wearing face coverings and not complying with their plan.”
“We want to be the leaders in this. We want to do what we can to prevent the spread of COVID. If we can by closing the three locations here in Old Town does that, then we’re happy to do so,” Druss told KPHO-TV. The closures are voluntary for health and safety concerns.
Riot House was one of eight bars and restaurants receiving notices from state liquor licensing officials for not following social distancing guidelines, but the only one charged. It is believed to be the first case against an Arizona business during the pandemic alleging an accusation of failure to follow social distancing rules.
The Arizona Department of Health Services on Friday reported another 45 deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,535 since the start of the outbreak. The state also reported nearly 3,500 newly confirmed cases for a total of just under 66,500. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
Officials with the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control also sent notices Wednesday to Bottled Blonde, Pattie’s, Casa Amigos, El Hefe, International, Maya Day & Nightclub and Hi-Fi. All eight bars, including Riot House, are in or near Scottsdale’s Entertainment District in Old Town.
Videos have circulated for weeks online showing large crowds of people in and around bars in Scottsdale. Since then, new signs have been placed in front of establishments telling customers that masks are required while inside.
“We’ve been steadfast in our intentions to operate our restaurants responsibly, and within the guidelines provided by the city, state, and the CDC. We will continue to work as a team, together with our guests, to uphold the guidelines while operating our business,” Evening Entertainment Group said in a statement. It owns Casa Amigos, Bottled Blonde and Hi-Fi.
The statement read: “We have removed guests for non-compliance, and will continue to do so if necessary.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.