Lake Havasu City Mayor Cal Sheehy said the executive order on Monday represented a significant change in terms of enforcement capabilities for cities.
Any business found in noncompliance is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $2,500 as well as the summary suspension of any license the business holds. For a bar, that means staying open could cost their liquor license.
“The enforcement capabilities were addressed in an earlier executive order, but there was nothing to enforce until today’s executive order that paused the operations in these particular industries,” Sheehy said. “The Governor was very specific in his guidance on what industries needed to pause their operation, and then he was very specific when it came to the bars by license number.”
Gov. Doug Ducey closed all bars and restaurants in March. He relented in early May, allowing sit-down dining at restaurants. Even then, however, he said that did not apply to bars.
But his administration relented, with the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control permitting any bar to open — and serve customers — as long as food was made available. That could include anything from snacks to a food truck parked outside.
The result has been some viral videos of bars packed full of patrons, with few wearing masks or social distancing.
As recently as Friday, Ducey was sticking by his decision to permit operation of bars even as Republican counterparts in Texas and Florida shuttered them. Instead, Ducey said he would crack down on those “bad actors’’ who did not follow proper health protocols and work to educate all operators about safe operation
The governor conceded that didn’t work out quite the way he planned, leaving him no option but to close down anything licensed as a bar, meaning any establishment where food sales account for less than 40 percent of revenues.
“When necessary, when needed, we will do what it take to get the job done,’’ Ducey said.
So why did it take six weeks to figure out that reopening bars was a mistake? The governor said it was all about providing clarity and guidance.
“We do want to open our economy,’’ he said. “We just want it to be safe and we want it to be successful.’’
Monday’s order also calls for gyms and fitness clubs, indoor movie theatres, and water parks to close up their operations.
“We will continue to monitor those specific businesses over that period of 30 days, but most certainly in the next several days as we gain compliance in this area.”
Sheehy said the Lake Havasu City Police Department is starting out with education, and will give businesses a warning if they are not in compliance, but fines and potentially taking away licenses will follow of the business refuses to follow the order.
“Now is the time. We are protecting the health and safety of our citizens and visitors,” Sheehy said. “We will be immediately taking action, but first educating, then providing a warning, then issuing a citation. This is a serious public health crisis that we are experiencing in Arizona and Lake Havasu City is going to do our part to help slow the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of our citizens.”
Aquatic Center closed
In response to the executive order, City Manager Jess Knudson said Lake Havasu City will be shutting down the Aquatic Center once again, and suspend all indoor classes, programs and activities. The Aquatic Center had restarted swimming lessons for kids, and started allowing in person participation at its daily work out classes in June. Knudson said the city will continue to hold its workout classes every morning on Facebook live, as was done during the stay at home orders.
Knudson said the latest executive order is not expected to impact any of the city’s restroom facilities or parks.
Gyms and theaters closing again
Local gyms will feel the burn next month after Ducey’s announcement Monday afternoon.
With gyms scheduled to close by 8 p.m. Monday, Havasu Fitness manager Margaret Landis says the next 30 days will be difficult for employees as well as members.
“Like any business, it’s tough to be closed for a whole 30 days,” Landis said. “I understand why. But we reopened May 25 – our members were so happy to come back. And now they can’t. We’ve started sending messages to members and staff to let them know about the shut down.”
Havasu resident Jasmine Mathews visited Havasu Fitness with her boyfriend Monday, where the news came as a shock.
“I told him, ‘get your workout in, because it’ll probably be your last one for a while,” Mathews said. “I’m not for or against the shutdown … we’re here every other day. We’re very fortunate to have workout equipment at home. It’s going to suck, but other people aren’t so lucky.”
At Havasu’s Planet Fitness, Ducey’s order was the last straw for another gym-goer. She asked to be identified only as “Karen D.”
“I’m going to cancel my membership,” Karen said. “There’s no sense in keeping it if they’re not going to be open. I came to the gym a couple of times a week … I’ll just walk or work out from home now.”
At Havasu’s Star Cinemas, the projector flickered off a second time under order from the Arizona Governor’s Office. The theater reopened June 8, featuring classic films from the past four decades, but will now be forced to endure another closure until Aug. 17.
“We’ll shut down for another 30 days, but we’ll be right back up,” said General Manager Jenny DuPont. “We already have all of our precautions in place.”
According to DuPont, employees at the theater were able to endure the first shutdown, and can likely endure another one as Gov. Ducey seeks to curb the rising coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s out of our hands,” DuPont said. “There’s nothing we can really do.”
What the theater’s reopening will bring in August, however, remains to be seen. Newer films were scheduled for release in July, but DuPont says those releases have already been postponed three times due to the crisis.
Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.