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Scottsdale bar Riot House charged for alleged social distancing violations

Posted at 4:44 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 19:44:42-04

Riot House, a nightclub within Old Town Scottsdale's Entertainment District, has been charged for allegedly failing to enforce their own safety policies regarding social distancing, a violation of Gov. Doug Ducey's recent executive order, police said Thursday.

Scottsdale police said they observed both customers and employees at the club "not practicing physical distancing, not wearing face coverings, and not complying with their plan," according to a news release.

"We have yet to see the evidence that supports this violation and will respond to this in due course," said Lissa Druss, spokesperson for Riot Hospitality Group. Riot operates other nightclubs and restaurants in the Phoenix area, including Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row, El Hefe, Farm & Craft, and Hand Cut Burgers and Chophouse

During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey name-checked eight well-known Scottsdale bars and nightclubs and said the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control had sent final notices to those businesses to comply with social distancing rules.

Those businesses were Riot House, the only one that has been charged, El Hefe, Bottled Blonde, Pattie's, First Avenue Lounge, Casa Amigos, International, Maya Day Club, and Hi-Fi Kitchen and Cocktails.

"Bad actors will be held accountable," he said. Ducey also noted that a majority of businesses and restaurants in Arizona have complied with the social distancing requirements.

Shortly after Scottsdale police's statement, Mayor Jim Lane issued his own statement.

"Since COVID-19 re-opening processes were put into place, @ScottsdalePD have worked frequently and proactively with restaurants in the city to ensure an understanding of the rules and seek compliance. Most establishments are successfully navigating the new rules and required operating procedures. I hope the criminal charges filed here will further encourage these particular businesses to follow the law," Lane said.

Scottsdale's nightlife has been a focal point for an apparent lack of social distancing since Gov. Ducey lifted his stay-at-home order on May 15, prompting restaurants and other food establishments to reopen their dining rooms.

Over the last several weeks, people have posted videos to social media showing crowded bars and clubs in Scottsdale, as well as people congregating in the street.

Last week, faced with an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in the state, Gov. Ducey issued a new executive order that now requires restaurants, bars, and businessesto implement plans for social distancing, including reducing capacity and installing six-foot markers and other signage.

Previously, Ducey's guidance, while similar, was more of a recommendation.

Ducey also allowed local cities and towns to decide whether or not to require masks. Most in the Phoenix metro, including Scottsdale, have mandated that masks be worn while at restaurants and businesses. Maricopa County's Board of Supervisors also issued a county-wide mandate requiring masks.

In recent weeks, several businesses and restaurants in the Phoenix area have temporarily closed, again,after self-reporting employees and others who have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for Riot House Hospitality also confirmedthat five employees who work at Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row in downtown Gilbert have tested positive with coronavirus.

In a message to employees, the restaurant said, "Arizona continues to be one of the states seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases. Unfortunately, those cases are now touching our Whiskey Row Gilbert, and we now have a fifth employee who has tested positive."

"While we cannot control who comes in contact with it and when, we are reminding our staff to be extra vigilant, both at work and on personal time, to take necessary precautions to limit your possible exposure of COVID-19," the message said.

A spokesperson confirmed that the message was authentic. However, initially, the spokesperson denied to confirm or deny the message, citing employee privacy.