By Shawn Byrne
Wickenburg’s Town Attorney Eileen McGuire emailed a letter to the owners of Bedoian’s Bakery & Bistro, Deb’s Horseshoe Café, and Lydia’s La Canasta’s attorney on Wednesday (May 13) that stated the Town would not be pursuing charges against the businesses for conducting dine-in operations in violation of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s Executive Orders 2020-09 and 2020-33.
McGuire’s letter to attorney Anthony Ramirez of Warnock Mackinlay Law of Scottsdale said, “Wickenburg has determined it will decline prosecution for violation of the Executive Order by your clients. We urge your clients to incorporate the governor’s guidelines in opening their respective restaurants for dine in service.”
Ramirez and his clients arranged for a press conference Thursday inside Deb’s Horseshoe Café. He expressed his gratitude to the Town on behalf of these Wickenburg businesses.
“Thank you to the city of Wickenburg and the prosecutor for making this decision and really using common sense in their decision-making in regards to what took place here,” he said. “What they did was simply open their private property to willing employees and pay their employees to serve willing patrons. If civil disobedience is ever justified, it’s certainly to take care of self and our families.”
Victor Bedoian, owner of Bedoian’s Bakery & Bistro, felt the government’s decision to close down a major part of Bedoian’s operation, dine-in service, was not only unfair, but unconstitutional. He said people have been driving in out of Wickenburg to and from the Valley every day while making deliveries, driving through or even Wickenburg residents shopping in Surprise. While his store could not offer dine-in service, other businesses were allowed to normally function, such as grocery and convenience stores.
“So we’re doing nothing other than what everybody else is doing,” Bedoian said. “I’m not understanding why anyone would have an objection because this is going on continually whether we were open or closed. Why pick this person can do it and this person can’t?”
After the town attorney issued the warning letters May 8, the governor’s office told the Town it was beginning to face constitutional challenges from around the state that would not be settled for months, according to McGuire’s letter to Ramirez. McGuire went on to say that “the governor’s office has updated its instruction and recommendations to the communities regarding enforcement,” which led the Town to decline pressing charges.
Wickenburg Mayor Rui Pereira said in a statement that the Town was relying upon the guidance and direction from the governor's office and the executive orders it issued. The mayor said he and the Town's staff were actively involved with the governor's office. Ducey may have caught the mayor and Town off guard with the timing of the events that took place.
"The governor clearly stated on TV during his press conference that the executive orders were enforceable, and he clearly stated the penalties for not complying," Pereira said. "For whatever reasons, he later decided a more lenient approach would be the best course of action. He has put mayors and other officials in very difficult situations."
Kristy Bedoian, Town Councilmember and owner of Bedoian’s with Victor, said she believes the restaurant industry in one of the cleanliest. She said restaurants keep a bucket of bleach water handy at all times. She said continuing with dine-in service rather than adhere to the governor’s executive orders had nothing to do with money and everything to do with constitutional rights.
“A lot of people question me and said, ‘Are you breaking your oath of office,’” she said. “I said my oath of office was to uphold the constitution not only for the people of Wickenburg, but for all of America; not just myself. I felt like when we did this, I’m doing this for the whole town of Wickenburg.”
Downtown Wickenburg was the site of freedom rallies over two consecutive weekends after Wickenburg Police Department visited the businesses May 1 in an effort to educate the owners and offer a chance at compliance. The businesses continued to operate dine-in services, and McGuire’s warning letter was delivered May 8.
“It is my understanding you disregarded the information and continued operation of dine-in service,” McGuire said. “This gives rise to criminal action under A.R.S. 26-317. The Town of Wickenburg is compelled to enforce the executive orders.”
Restaurants were given the go-ahead for dine-in services as of Monday (May 11) with social distancing guidelines and enhanced sanitation requirements. Ducey’s stay-at-home order is set to expire Friday (May 15).
Ramirez said the business owners would not be pursuing civil litigation over the dispute with the Town.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to include comments from Wickenburg Mayor Rui Pereira.