Let’s try to answer this reader question about bars in Parker that are seemingly open during the month of July:
If all the bars in Arizona were ordered closed, how is it that _________________ is still open?”
– Bemused About Rules
Thanks for the question, BAR. The answer isn’t as clear as it may seem.
On June 29th, after a region-wide spike in cases of coronavirus, Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey ordered some businesses to close down – again. This hasn’t earned him many points from those industries, who feel ‘picked on’ at this point. But truthfully, he’s between a rock and a hard place. If he does nothing about the surge in cases of COVID-19, he’ll be portrayed as responsible for the deaths of hundreds or thousands of people. If he shuts everything down again, he’ll be told he’s responsible for demolishing the Arizona economy. This is exactly why I’d never run for office.
Anyway, BAR, as part of the new order, bars were told they must close again. And in the past few days, we’ve seen Parker area bars responding in a variety of ways. Some have advertised social distancing but remaining open, and others have said they’re closing completely. One establishment even switched midway after being told by the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control that they had to close! Others are consulting with their attorneys ahead of a big holiday weekend, typically an important time for them.
So what gives?
The crux of this is about whether an establishment that serves both food and alcohol is a restaurant (allowed to remain open) or a bar (must close).
How is it decided whether an establishment that does both things is one or the other? If I go to Fox’s and get dinner, it’s a restaurant, right? If I go to Roadrunner and get drinks, it’s a bar.
To add to the confusion, BAR, the requirements are for businesses that hold specific types of liquor licenses: Series 6 and 7, to be exact. Series 6 licenses allow businesses to sell beer, wine and spirits. Series 7 licenses allow businesses to sell beer and wine only. Neither of these licenses tell the business what percentage of their overall sales must come from alcohol.
So which license do restaurants have? Typically a completely different kind: Series 12, which require businesses to make at least 40 percent of their income from food. Ducey’s order didn’t affect the holders of Series 12 licenses, so they’re allowed to remain open.
But! Just when you thought it was clear, and you thought you understood it, the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses released a document on Tuesday night that said some businesses which have combined, or “stacked” Series 6 or 7 licenses may actually stay open! The condition is that the business’s primary purpose is something other than selling alcohol. This means that an establishment that has both Series 7 and Series 12 licenses may stay open, operating under the Series 12, as long as their primary purpose is something other than selling alcohol.
Maybe a business on the river has a resort, a live music venue, a surf pool, a merch store, a jetski rental, a chocolate factory, a strip club, a restaurant and a bar. That place may be able to argue that their primary purpose is not alcohol, and with their “stacked” licenses, they could stay open? (The reason for my question mark is because I’m not a lawyer, and don’t know how they would fare under that scenario; it’s just an example of how complicated this can get. Also, can someone please open a business like that?)
“The Department cannot provide guidance to its thousands of licensees regarding the nature of their businesses,” the document says. “Each licensee unsure of requirements are encouraged to consult with their own legal counsel.”
The document also says that a business can’t suddenly change what they are. Like, a bar can’t see this order come down, and then decide to open a barbershop offering one-dollar quarantine haircuts on a dock, just so that their primary business isn’t alcohol.
Who is enforcing this? The Department of Liquor, who have already done so in Parker this week, and local police departments, as happened this week in places like Scottsdale.
There hasn’t been much good news for the service industry this year, as we know, and this new order can’t be easy for them, especially ahead of a holiday weekend. If you’re out and about on the Parker Strip this weekend, there is one way you can support some establishments (safely, while keeping in mind that cases of the virus in La Paz County have quadrupled in the past month). Ducey’s order allows bars to serve alcohol “through pick up, delivery and drive-thru operations.” So, for those businesses who decide to offer it, you can go by on your boat or in your car and take some drinks to go.
And when you do, BAR, might I suggest a toast? To this all being over sometime soon, and to success and health for owners and workers in the local service industry, which help make the Parker area what it is.