Halloween

Families and businesses are modifying their Halloween plans this year due to COVID-19, but the pandemic has not cancelled the holiday outright in Scottsdale.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated Maya Day and Nightclub and Riot House were closed. Both establishments are now open.

With warnings about traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treats, Scottsdale families and other local groups are modifying their Halloween plans in response to COVID-19.

And adults who celebrate Halloween, patrons of Old Town restaurants and open bars will find all-day specials and social distance rules.

For families, returning for its 22nd year is North Scottsdale United Methodist Church’s Trunk or Treat – this year it’s a drive-thru only event.

Held on 4-5 p.m. on Halloween, the event invites families to drive through the church parking lot, where they will see festive holiday trunks and costumes and pick up an oversized goodie bag. North Scottsdale United Methodist is at 11735 N. Scottsdale Road.

The first 200 vehicles will receive Trunk or Treat bags.

The church has three guidelines for attendees: Wear a friendly costume, remain in your vehicle and enter from Jenan Drive.It also invites attendees to make an online donation for the church’s Diaper Drive benefiting AZ Helping Hands, a foster care support program.

Families also are modifying their plans this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that families celebrating Halloween should practice social distancing, wear cloth masks and bring hand sanitizer.

Those handing out candy should do so outdoors and avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters. They should also wash their hands before preparing the candy.Jennifer Hibbard, a mother of two in southern Scottsdale, said her family is working with neighbors to create a safe trick-or-treat opportunity.

The private Halloween celebration will only include the children on Hibbard’s street and a few nearby neighbors.

“There are less than 20 houses on our street and five of the houses have young kids,” Hibbard said. “We have two other families a street over that will likely join.”

“The older families with no kids on the street love to see the kids’ costumes every year... we are trying to figure out a safe way to do that,” Hibbard said.

Scottsdale parent Emmie Cardella said her family will not be trick-or-treating.

“For my family, each of my three kids is asking a couple friends to come over,” Cardella said. “We have a large yard, so there is plenty of space for everyone to be outdoors together.” 

“We will have lots of food and treats, but no trick or treating,” Cardella added.

Bars and restaurants in the Old Town area have not canceled Halloween outright but statewide regulations limiting occupancy and requiring safety precautions will tamp down what typically has been a rowdy and cramped celebration.

For example, Boondocks Patio & Grill in the Entertainment District will offer beer bucket specials, including a get-six-for-the-price-of-five special and all-day mimosa bucket specials.

The usually-crowded late-night hangout is operating as a restaurant and abiding by state restrictions, including designated seating spaced six feet apart, group size limits to 10 people and limiting capacity to 50 percent.

Manager Jake Kory calls this year’s Halloween at Boondocks – which typically serves about 2,500 people that day – involves “definite adjustment.”

“Pre-COVID, we would expect 2,500 people through the door on a Saturday Hallo-ween. This year, we would expect about 750 for the entire day,” Kory said.

Kory added that the COVID-19 crisis has had a “huge impact” on Boondocks.

“Since we closed on March 16 the first time, we’ve been operating in a bizarro world,” Kory said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services and Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control reached consent agreements allowing for the reopening of three bars that were closed by the state in late August: Casa Amigos and Skylanes in Scottsdale, Bottled Blonde in Scottsdale, and Glow Shots & Cocktails in Tempe.

Each venue is on a three-week trial, during which they must follow all guidelines and close by 10 p.m. 

If the state deems the businesses are following the rules, they will then start another three-week trial, extending closing time to midnight. 

Only after successfully passing that second trial can normal operations resume.

But Kory said even with the closure and reopening of popular bars, he doesn’t expect Boondocks will see a boost in sales on Halloween, largely because of the current capacity restriction.

“Doesn’t matter if we were the only bar in town; we’d still be at 50 percent,” he said. 

Boondocks anticipates crowding at the entrance by guests with nowhere to go – and Kory said their front door hosts are more than prepared.

“Our front door hosts have the most difficult job in the building,” Kory said. “Generally, most customers understand and follow the guidelines that are put in place; but every now and again; there are the few that cause a little bit of drama. 

“It would be nice if everyone realized that this is not any individual bar or restaurant’s mandates; it’s the current law that we have to abide by or face steep fines and a very possible indefinite license suspension.”

He added when Boondocks has unruly guests, Scottsdale Police have been “an amazing partner to help us navigate those issues.”  

“The Entertainment District and Scottsdale PD have implemented a proactive relationship in the past years that has had a very positive outcome regarding communication, safety and outcome,” Kory said.  

Social Tap owner Steve McDonald isn’t nervous about crowds on Hallo-ween, either.

But as a restaurant-bar that has participated in Halloween bar crawls in past years, McDonald is expecting a hit on sales.

“This year will have an impact due to the fact that we are unable to host our regular bar crawls through Scottsdale Bar Crawls, and there will be less foot traffic,” he said.

That said, don’t expect to drop in at your favorite restaurant and/or bar and snag a seat right away.

Boondocks and Kelly’s at SouthBridge, another popular Halloween haunt, encourages reservations as they both expect to be at-capacity throughout the evening.

“As an example, last Friday we had over 80 reservations and were unable to accommodate walk-ins,” said Kelly’s owner Dan Postal. 

“I would expect that we will be busy this Halloween, so we are telling everyone to get their reservations in early,” he added.

McDonald’s last bit of advice for diners this Halloween?

“Find a costume with a built-in mask!”