PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS 5)-- Phoenix City Council members are still weighing the pros and cons of allowing Mayor Kate Gallego to go forward with a state of emergency amid coronavirus concerns. The declaration will determine how bar and restaurant closures are enforced.

City Council met for an emergency meeting Wednesday, and immediately went into executive session to privately discuss whether to ratify the mayor’s declaration. Nearly four hours later, they returned but only voted to continue the discussion during another meeting on Friday, March 20, at noon.

The mayor’s announcement Tuesday forced owners to close their dining rooms by 8 p.m. and move to take-out or deliver models. Restaurant owners only had hours to make the adjustments.

“Today’s our first day so we’ve just cut staff,” said Dennis Dains, owner of Ajo Al’s. “We have a couple people in the kitchen to do what little bit of cooking or procession we have to do. We have a young lady that’s manning the phone and putting together the to-gos as they come in.”

Dennis’ son, Danny Dains, manages ones of Ajo Al’s Phoenix locations. He said closing their dining room meant telling about 25 employees to go home and wait. “We’re worried about their livelihood, as well.”

Father and son said their sales are down by 50 percent, but patrons have been supportive. One generous customer even left an $800 tip. The Dains say they can manage like this for a couple weeks but not a couple months.

“[There’s] no certainty. We don’t know anything, and with a business, if there’s no certainty, what can you do?” Danny said. “It makes it almost impossible to operate.”

Before Wednesday’s meeting, councilman Sal DiCiccio told Arizona’s Family that while he acknowledges Mayor Gallego is rightfully using authority under the emergency powers, he thinks the charter gives too much power to the mayor. He also called for more collaboration on the emergency actions.

“It is critical, in times of crisis, that everybody works together – we work with the state, we work with the county and we work with the other Valley cities. Phoenix is now going to be the outlier and doing their own thing,” DiCiccio said.

After the meeting, Mayor Gallego released a statement that said [in part]:

At this point, we are not only battling the virus, we are battling time. For every moment of inaction, we will unfortunately pay the price with the lives of residents... I hope to work with fellow council members over the next 48 hours to get this declaration ratified. The health of our community depends on it.

The mayor’s office says, for now, Phoenix Police will contact violators on an educational basis during a 72-hour period that kicked off Tuesday night at 8 p.m. If the council allows the state of emergency to move forward, the mayor’s office says the violations could be treated as misdemeanors.


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