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Bars and restaurants in Sonora are fully open for the first time during the pandemic

Sonora’s food and beverage establishments have been granted permission to reopen to pre-pandemic levels for the first time in more than a year and half. The change comes as both federal and state authorities have said the risk of coronavirus spread is now low.

The restaurant industry in Sonora is cheering the significantly downgraded restrictions on occupancy and hours this week. Bars, restaurants, clubs and cafes can open at 100% occupancy and stay open until 2 a.m.

"This weekend is the first weekend where there won't be occupancy limits since last March," said Manuel Lira, president of the Sonoran arm of the national restaurant association, called CANIRAC. "We're very excited to have this chance to go back to a sense of normality."

Businesses in Sonora have faced restricted operations since March 2020 when the pandemic, and while they have shifteddepending on the level spread, occupancy and hours had at no point returned to pre-pandemic levels before this week.

Still, businesses can’t let their guard down, Lira said, and will keep safety protocols like mask-wearing and social distancing in place. The reduced restrictions come just in time for the high winter season, he said, and he thinks most establishments will behave responsibly in hopes of staying fully open through the holidays.

Many businesses are also looking forward to the impending end of border travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people next month, he said, because they can return to the practice of shopping north of the border for supplies that are more expensive or unavailable in Sonora.

Kendal Blust, an Arizona native, reports from KJZZ’s bureau in Hermosillo, Sonora, focusing on business and economic relationships between Arizona and northern Mexico.Prior to joining KJZZ, Kendal worked at the Nogales International, reporting on border and immigration issues, local government, education and business. While working on her master’s degree at University of Arizona School of Journalism, she did stints with the Arizona Daily Star and the Tico Times in Costa Rica, and completed a thesis project about women art activists in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands.In her pre-journalist life, Kendal was a teacher, first helping Spanish high school students learn English, then heading to Tucson to teach fourth grade.When she’s not in the newsroom, Kendal enjoys getting outside for a hike or a swim, catching a good movie, hanging out with family and friends, and eating great food.