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Maricopa County: Distancing in restaurants won't be enforced by county, but by law enforcement

The county will continue to investigate complaints under the Food Code such as sanitation and cleanliness, but distancing rules are not under their jurisdiction.

PHOENIX — Maricopa County officials held a press conference Monday to explain the transition to opening back up dine-in services in restaurants in the county and the county's role in that. 

County environmental services director Darcy Kober explained during the press conference that the county will not require pre-inspections for restaurants to open back up for dine-in services on Monday, May 11.

The county has still been running inspections during the coronavirus pandemic, about 900 per week, according to Kober. The department usually performs 1,100-1,300 in a given week, but many restaurants and food establishments have been totally closed during the pandemic. 

Kober says for establishments that were due for inspection during this time but were totally closed and are now opening back up, county inspectors will double back to accomplish those inspections. 

Kober said during the press conference that the county can only enforce items under the Food Code and will continue to do so as they open back up.

RELATED: When is Arizona reopening? Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 restrictions

What the county can not enforce is distancing requirements outlined by Gov. Doug Ducey's office in his "Guidance For Restaurants Providing Dine-In Services," which is under Executive Order 2020-34. 

The guidelines from Ducey's office state that patrons should stay at least six feet away from others while dining and the guidance says "to the extent possible, restaurant establishments should take measures to ensure that customers may follow these guidelines."

Kober says people can submit any cleanliness or sanitation complaints to the county whether they have to do with COVID-19 or not, and the county will investigate. 

But, if patrons see distancing not being followed inside an establishment, the county couldn't investigate the complaint because it doesn't fall under county jurisdiction.

RELATED: Here are the Arizona businesses that are reopening

According to county communications director Fields Moseley, those looking to make complaints about distancing in restaurants would have to consult local law enforcement. 

Moseley said people could work with the attorney general's office, but the Office of the Arizona Attorney General later told 12 News that they do not have jurisdiction in this enforcement.

Again, the county responds to complaints under Food Code. This includes food contact surfaces not being clean, employees not washing their hands, prevalence of food-borne illness and more.

Separate from the governor's guidance for restaurant operators on reopening, the Maricopa County has its own checklist for restaurant management within the county to observe before reopening. That can be found here

Gov. Ducey announced in a Monday press conference this week that restaurants would be able to open back up for dine-in services on Monday, May 11. 

Below is the governor's guidance for restaurants planning to reopen. 

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