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Why is Gov. Ducey going soft on Scottsdale bars that are making a mockery of his orders?

Arizona Republic logo Arizona Republic 5/29/2020 Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic
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Gov. Doug Ducey has apparently lost his teeth.

Just a few weeks ago, the governor was fighting elements of his own party and warning businesses they’d better be able to demonstrate they can exercise social distancing when they reopen.

Doug Ducey holding a sign posing for the camera: In response to a question about bars and schools reopening, Gov. Doug Ducey explains how Arizona is still in Phase 1 of reopening at his press conference on May 28, 2020. © PPHX In response to a question about bars and schools reopening, Gov. Doug Ducey explains how Arizona is still in Phase 1 of reopening at his press conference on May 28, 2020.

Anyone who fails to do so, he warned, would pay the price.

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“They’re going to have a class one misdemeanor, which is a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail,” he said on April 2. “And we will enforce that.”

Or not, as it turns out.

During a press conference on Thursday, Ducey employed the fine art of the dodge, refusing twice to answer a question about crowded nightclubs in Scottsdale. 

No masks, no distancing, no worries

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It was a party in Old Town over Memorial Day weekend, as people packed into the Entertainment District's bars and clubs and jammed the dance floors. 

No masks, no distancing and no worries, apparently, among the clubbing crowd.

Thursday was Ducey’s chance to show that he has some bite – or at least the will to bare his teeth at businesses that are ignoring his executive orders, which are aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Scottsdale’s club scene has taken the loophole in Ducey’s reopening plan and driven a conga line right through it.

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When Ducey announced that restaurants could reopen on May 11, he specified that bars were to remain closed. But he left in some wiggle room for bars that serve food, no doubt thinking about sports bars and pubs – not nightclubs.

Yet there they were in Scottsdale's clubs over the weekend, partying like it was February 2020.

In response to the crowds, Evening Entertainment Group, which owns seven Old Town restaurant/clubs including Bottled Blonde and Casa Amigos, released a statement saying its properties "have implemented a robust set of operating guidelines in alignment with state and federal guidelines."

Perhaps those robust guidelines were just difficult to spot, given the mobs of partygoers.

Why is Ducey looking the other way?

Evening Entertainment Group, by the way, is owned by Les and Diane Corieri, longtime supporters of Ducey. In 2018, they contributed more than $30,000 to his re-election campaign. 

Some bars are making a mockery of Ducey's orders.

First, it was C.A.S.A., a Mill Avenue bar in Tempe that reopened earlier this month with a packed patio. Ducey called the bar an “outlier”.

Now Old Town Scottsdale is rocking and Ducey is looking the other way, refusing even to acknowledge a problem much less issue a word of warning.

I get it. The governor has been under immense pressure to reopen the economy ASAP. As a result, he accelerated the reopening of restaurants and certain other “non-essential” businesses.

But he was specific that bars were to remain closed.

Not only are they not closed in Scottsdale, they’re packing 'em in.

'I don't go ...' is all Ducey would say

The scene made national news over the weekend as TMZ showed no less than boxer Floyd Mayweather hitting the International Boutique Nightclub in Scottsdale.

“The video is shocking,” TMZ wrote, “considering we're still in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Just not as shocking as a governor who just six weeks ago was ready to get tough and now …  

“I don’t go to the clubs in Scottsdale so you’re going to have to ask someone who has more information on that,” he said, in response to a question about the crowded bar scene.

So says the governor who just weeks ago issued stern warnings to businesses that open too early, disregarding the need to guard against the spread of COVID-19. 

"You are playing with your liquor license," Ducey said at the time. "Don't do that."

Of course, that was then and this is now, when the governor seems unable to muster up the will to deliver even so much as a paper cut.

Meanwhile, on Friday the state Department of Health Services reported 702 new coronavirus cases, the most Arizona has seen in a single day since this nightmare began. 

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Why is Gov. Ducey going soft on Scottsdale bars that are making a mockery of his orders?

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