Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: With the potential deadly coronavirus COVID-19 looming globally, a sign in front of the Miner’s Diner in Morenci advises customers that the restaurant is not offering full service and is only taking to-go orders. It was one of the first such businesses to do so in Morenci. Most restaurants in the town remain fully open.
No virus reported yet so county eateries exempt
By Walt Mares
The vast majority of restaurants and bars in Greenlee County continue to provide full services for customers wishing to dine in as the COVID-19 pandemic looms in Arizona as well as globally. Restaurants and bars in Arizona counties that have reported cases of the virus are under the governor’s executive order to provide limited services to customers. That means providing take-out orders at most.
Greenlee has as of yet not had any cases of people testing positive for the virus. Therefore its restaurants are exempt from meeting stricter standards than in counties elsewhere in the state where COVID-19 cases have been identified, including neighboring Graham County.
There are few restaurants in Greenlee, which has the smallest population of Arizona’s 15 counties. The county is located in the desolate high desert of southeastern Arizona.
The restaurants are located in Duncan, York Valley, Clifton, and Morenci.
Only three eateries, all of which are located in the Morenci Plaza, have opted to provide take out service only. They are the Miner’s Diner, R&R Pizza and the Golden City Chinese restaurant. The diner and pizza place have curtailed services for at least the past 10 days. A sign advising of takeout only appeared in front of Golden City appeared Tuesday, March 24.
The Starbucks coffee shop in the Morenci Loop remains open. However, customers can no longer have their personal containers filled. Their drinks will be served in disposable cups provided by the shop.
Many customers transfer drinks from the containers provided in their personal containers. Also, there are no longer any chairs and tables on the facility’s patio, thus preventing people from congregating there.
Restaurants remaining open and offering full service in Morenci are Michelle’s, the Morenci Motel and Morenci Lanes. The giant Freeport McMoran copper mine is located there. It employs thousands of people. The Morenci facility is the largest operating open-pit copper mine in North America.
The Miner’s Diner bar has been closed for about two weeks. Alcoholic drinks are available at the Motel and Michelle’s.
Clifton, the county seat, is situated four miles from Morenci. Clifton’s El Corralito, Daly’s Diner and PJ’s Restaurant remain fully open. El Corralito does not open until 4 p.m. Daly’s and PJ’s are open. Taqueria Sarap is situated at the north end of town. It is the newest eatery in Clifton and is located at the former site of Diana’s Six Pack.
The taqueria has a patio on which patrons can dine. It offers Sonoran hotdogs on Mondays and Tuesdays and tacos Wednesday through Saturday. Since its opening last year it has enjoyed a strong customer base.
The recently renovated Clifton Hotel has a full bar but is not at present providing drinks. Also, the American Legion bar is closed. The hotel and Legion are the only two bars in Clifton, which at one time had five thriving establishments.
Clifton is the county seat.
In York Valley, 10 miles south of Clifton, Gimee’s Restaurant remains fully open. It is limiting services to groups of six.
In Duncan, located in southernmost Greenlee County 30 miles from Clifton, the Ranchhouse. Hilda’s and Humble Pie all offer full dine-in services.
The cautious bank
The National Bank of Arizona in Morenci is also dealing with the possible effects of the coronavirus threat. Only two customers are allowed at any one time in the bank. A staff member who is in the bank stands watch at the door to lock or unlock the door as customers are allowed to enter or exit. While in the bank customers are required to sit in chairs in front of counters rather than stand to apparently minimize contact with tellers.