Bars struggle with reopening during the pandemic in Arizona

The dog days of summer meant the Thunderbird Lounge, like most bars, were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fox 10 has been following their saga to try and reopen, and on Thursday, Aug. 27, they finally did, much to the delight of their regular customers.

“Very much the, 'I missed you,' 'Glad you guys are back,' 'I haven’t left the house in months, this is the only place I feel safe going to,'” said Jeremiah Gratza with Thunderbird Lounge of the reactions he's been getting since reopening.

They have the option to open the indoor portion of their bar, but they’re only using the patio for now. “We’ve chosen for the time being to keep it all outside to be extra safe," Gratza said.

Bars that serve food were allowed to open at reduced capacity Thursday in Maricopa County when health benchmarks were met. Three had been shut down by the health department within a matter of days.

“It was for not socially distancing. For dancing that was prohibited under the requirements. It was also for people not being seated, so there were significant infractions. One of them was for not serving food," explained Dr. Cara Christ, Director of Arizona's Department of Health Services during a Aug. 31 press conference.

Gratza isn’t worried that will happen to his bar unless the state punishes every bar. Something he and many other bar owners are adamantly against

“I’ve said this from the beginning. If there’s bad actors, shut them down -- whether it be a bar, casino, night club, shut them down. Just don’t shut everyone down," Gratza said.

Watch Aug. 31's press conference below: