Some local restaurants are starting to shut their doors to dine in customers again as coronavirus cases have been rising quickly both locally and across Arizona.
Restaurants and businesses have seen customers quickly return after Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay home orders expired in May and Lake Havasu City has become a popular weekend destination ever since. But with positive covid-19 cases rising quickly in Havasu, Mohave County, and Arizona as a whole, a few restaurants are voluntarily starting to revert back to take out and delivery only – as they did during the mandatory shut downs.
Mayor Cal Sheehy said he has heard of a handful of restaurants who have recently closed dine in, or are soon planning to. He also noted that some restaurants have remained closed even after the stay home orders were lifted.
“Each business and restaurant is doing what is right for their operation. I encourage everyone to be responsible and do the right thing,” Sheehy said. “I applaud the business community in Lake Havasu City that are taking the steps they believe will help slow the spread and protect their employees and our citizens. This is an all new experience for all of us. For each business owner that is taking these measures seriously, I appreciate that and I thank them for their efforts.”
The Red Onion made the decision to close up shop on Tuesday after an employee started feeling sick.
“We are waiting for some test results back on a couple employees, and we thought it would be best for the community and our employees to just close for two weeks,” said Red Onion owner Steve Van Ella. “Knowing what we are going to get with Fourth of July weekend and all the people who are infected, we really just want to sit this Fourth of July out.”
While some restaurants have closed after an employee has gotten ill, others are starting to preemptively close their doors.
La Vita Dolce owner Robert Day said his restaurant closed its dining room on Friday night, but will serve only takeout and delivery. Day said closing dining was a personal decision that he had to make, and he said he is fortunate to be in a financial position to make it.
“A lot of (restaurants) are not in the financial situation I am to be able to do what I am doing,” he said. “But it doesn’t take a scientist to realize that we have a lot of people in town and it is just a matter of time. And I don’t want to take that chance. There are people who have tested positive who have been in my restaurant. I don’t have any workers (who have tested positive) as of yet, but we have had one tested and are waiting on the results. I’m just not going to keep rolling the dice every night.”
Michele Lin, owner of Lin’s Little China, said none of her employees have gotten coronavirus, and she doesn’t know of anyone who has been around the restaurant who has tested positive. But the restaurant is closing to dining once again anyway, resuming their takeout and delivery only operations.
“Personally, I think we are up to seven restaurants now in Havasu with staff that has been infected with the covid, I can’t take that chance with my staff and my customers,” she said. “So we are making the choice to go back to takeout and delivery to protect everybody.”
Lin said she made that decision with her husband.
“My husband and I did have to look at the numbers,” Lin said. “My husband has been pushing it and he wanted to close this week. He is afraid. He has family in China and New York. So watching the things that happen, I guess if you don’t see it in your face it is hard to believe and you have those naysayers. It has affected our family – my husband has two (former) neighbors in New York that were the same age as him and passed away from it. It is no lie, it hit home.”
Van Ella said he has been telling customers the Red Onion is closed until further notice, but told Today’s News-Herald that he is tentatively hoping to reopen the restaurant after it has been closed for 14 days. But he said the restaurant will be able to take advantage of the down time to do a little remodeling work originally planned during the stay at home orders.
“They opened us up sooner than we thought,” Van Ella said of the governor’s stay home order being lifted. “We had a bunch of stuff planned with new tables, new carpet in the bar, and I have new stuff coming for the dish sink and we didn’t get a chance to do it. So we thought, ‘You know what, this would be a perfect time.’”
Day said La Vita Dolce will likely remain closed for about seven to 10 days. He said the restaurant will take advantage of its down time by doing some deep cleaning and a complete sterilization of the facility.
Lin said she doesn’t know when Lin’s Little China will allow dining again.
“We are going to probably take this on our own personal beliefs and not necessarily listen to what the government officials are saying or the health department,” she said. “We are going to take it on ourselves.”
Lin said she is encouraged by seeing other local restaurants electing to take similar precautions recently.
“I really think they are setting an example,” Lin said. “I hope the rest of the restaurants and certain businesses, I won’t say they need to close their doors, but just to protect themselves and make their environment safer for others.”