Expanding outdoor dining in Arizona is ‘win-win’ to restaurant group leader
PHOENIX – The president of the Arizona Restaurant Association is hoping an influx of capital from the state to expand outdoor dining spaces will make a difference to his industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re not pumping a lot of money per restaurant, but the idea is, ‘hey, can we give you that little leg up?'” Steve Chucri said Thursday on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show.
“These grants are going to be up to $5,000 to $10,000 [apiece],” Chuchri said. “You are able to apply for them for specific purposes – expanding the extension of your premises, to have heaters or seating, PPE and masks and the like.”
Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order Wednesday to allow restaurants to expand outdoor dining, and allotted $1 million to the Safest Outside Restaurant Assistance Program, and Chucri’s group was awarded $100,000 in grant funding.
“If we’re able to bring more people outside … it’s a total win-win,” Chucri said.
Profit margins are thin in the restaurant business, Chucri, also a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said.
The funding will help dining establishments “go above and beyond what your daily service is now. Tenting would probably be included in that,” he said.
Restaurants have been operating at 50% capacity. Under the new order, restaurants can temporarily push their perimeters beyond sidewalks and other public areas to accommodate spacing for diners.
“Think of a balloon – there’s only so much air in it. There’s only so much capacity we have in our dining rooms, which puts compression issues on us,” Chucri said, adding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers outdoor dining to be a safer environment than indoor restaurant dining.
Chucri said Arizona restaurants had lost lost $2 billion in revenue during the pandemic.
“Through tools in the toolbox, like this, it helps us immensely,” he said.