With Gov. Ducey recently easing restrictions on some businesses while extending his stay at home directive until May 15, the Herald/Review continues to speak with local leaders to gauge what will come next as they begin transitioning to the next phase.

Benson Mayor Toney King“This coronavirus pandemic has devastated our community economically,” said Benson Mayor Toney King. “So, I was relieved by the governor’s announcement on Wednesday that he is going to be loosening up some of the restrictions that caused many businesses to cut back hours or close completely.”

“The big box stores and franchises will survive this, but I’m worried about Benson’s small mom and pop businesses. They’re really struggling right now, in spite of the government’s small business loans. Some of the retail businesses, restaurants and salons that have been forced to close because of these state mandates may not recover from this, and that’s one of my big concerns,” the mayor added.

“This virus is very frightening for people, especially our seniors and vulnerable citizens. I certainly understand the health concerns associated with this crisis, and I respect Gov. Ducey’s reasons for taking special precautions to protect citizens. But our businesses need to be able to open their doors again so they can start generating revenue in order to survive,” said King, who feels that people should have the right to decide for themselves whether they want to risk going out in the community.

“If people do not want to go out because they’re worried about the virus, then let them stay sheltered in,” he said. “Those who want to go out shopping and dining should be allowed to do that, as long as they’re following CDC guidelines for their own safety and the safety of others they come in contact with. I respect the government’s attempts at keeping the virus as contained as possible through the measures they’ve put in place, but I believe people understand what they need to do to stay safe while going about their daily lives.”

King also touched on the low interest loans that are available to small businesses.

“We’ll see what happens, but I do not feel that smaller cities like Benson are going to see much money from the government to help revive struggling small businesses,” he said.

“Obviously, Phoenix and Tucson are going to benefit from these business loans, but only a trickle of the money will benefit the small cities and towns across the state. That’s another one of my concerns. I’ll be following Gov. Ducey’s announcements closely and hope we can get all of our businesses up and running again as soon as possible.”

Benson City Grille Manager Lori McGoffinThe Benson City Grille, located at the San Pedro Golf Course, offers full-service dining with a varied menu and spectacular views of the distant Dragoon Mountains.

The Grille is managed by Lori McGoffin, who spoke of how the state’s restrictions to restaurants have impacted the Grille’s revenues and wait staff. Like Mayor King, she is cautiously optimistic about Ducey’s announcement of plans to ease restrictions for different businesses and is waiting to see when restaurants will be able to open their doors to dine-ins once again.

“We have been doing delivery and take-out, and before the governor shut our dining room down entirely, we were seating customers at every other table to comply with social distancing,” McGoffin said. “When the shutdown started, it hit us very hard. We had events scheduled that had to be cancelled and we lost dining and alcohol sales. Our wait staff was impacted by this as well because they lost tip money,” she said, adding that the Grille has experienced at least a 50 percent dip in revenue since closing its dining room.

Typically staffed with five servers, McGoffin said three have continued to work and the other two plan to return once the dining area is reopened.

“One service we’re able to provide that has been a big help is that our wait staff delivers food and drinks to golfers in golf carts,” McGoffin said. “They use the golf carts to deliver all over the course when golfers call-in orders. It has really saved us. So, as we wait to see what Gov. Ducey is going to allow us to do when we transition into reopening our dining room, we hope to see our business come back.”

“We already know there will be a lot of changes when we reopen for dine-ins, but we’re looking forward to getting back in business. We miss our friends.”

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