As COVID-19 continues to rise, local restaurants resort to re-closing dining rooms

By Jackie Tran
By Jackie Tran
June 25, 2020

Although about six weeks have passed since dine-in services were allowed to reopen in Arizona, restaurants are still adjusting to a world with COVID-19. Additionally, they have the burden of catching up on several weeks of lost revenue.

However, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Arizona, several restaurants also began voluntarily closing their dining rooms and returning to take-out only.

"We have been closed for dine-in since the beginning and have been doing take-out since March," said Claire Wang, co-owner of Noodleholics. "Our plan was to re-open for dine-in after our yearly summer holiday [which was between June 8 - 15]. However, due to the spike, we decided that we will remain closed for dine-in until further notice."

"The rise in cases and now employees in several restaurants getting sick made a decision that was already being discussed," said Lindon "Lindy" Reilly, partner at Fire N' Smoke Wood Fired Pizza & BBQ.

Facade at Fire N' Smoke Wood Fired Pizza & BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Facade at Fire N' Smoke Wood Fired Pizza & BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Additional factors made Reilly's decision easier.

"People wanted dine-in," Reilly said. "Well they didn’t come, and the cost of constant disinfecting labor and a drastic rise in food cost made opening a mistake. A to-go only platform was working and we should have stayed with it."

DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails, erring on the side of caution, didn't reopen until two weeks ago. However, they issued a press release earlier this week announcing re-closure:

To our wonderful guests,

When we reopened DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails and Wild Johnny’s two weeks ago, we hoped it would be for a long time.

Unfortunately, the continued volatility created by the pandemic and rising case numbers in our community makes the difficult decision to close our doors again, the right one. We look forward to serving you again soon. To that end we are in the process of bringing back Janos Vamos – a wonderful menu of our signature dishes available for takeout. More details on that coming soon.

We hope each of and your families are healthy and safe and find moments of joy and delicious food in the coming weeks. All of us look forward to reopening at a time when we will have less concerns about safety and will once again be able to enjoy more carefree evenings out.

We will keep you posted.
With all best wishes,

[06/26/2020 3:10 p.m. update: BK Tacos is now temporarily closed until further notice. This also includes curbside, take-out, and drive-thru.]

Once dine-in resumed at BK Tacos, owner Benjamin Galaz grew concerned as lines formed outside.

"During the weekend, we would have long lines of 10 parties, waiting up to 30 minutes to get a table," Galaz said.

Galaz ended up voluntarily closing dine-in services as well. In the meantime, he plans on expanding the patio and outdoor seating capacity.

Sonoran hot dog at BK Tacos
Sonoran hot dog at BK Tacos (Credit: Jackie Tran)

"We hope to reopen when our community’s COVID-19 cases begin to decrease and people become more aware and conscientious about safer practices," Galaz said. "Until then, we plan to keep our services to take-out, drive-thru, and delivery until further notice."

Furthermore, he also encourages other restaurants to do the same.

"I feel that it is important to close dine-in during this time due to the high increase in COVID-19 cases in our community," Galaz said. "I believe that in order to help flatten the curve, it would be best if restaurants also closed their dine-in services, in order to practice social distancing and wait until conditions are better to open back up."

The same sentiment is not shared across the board.

"We are staying open to try to give our guest and our employees some normalcy in these times," said Michael Elefante, owner-chef at Mama Louisa's. "We are taking every precaution we can while still ensuring prompt service and high quality fresh consistent food. We are sitting guests at about 40% of our normal occupancy."

"It’s their business and they need to decide what’s the best direction for their restaurant," Reilly said. "I’m not here to point fingers or act like I know what’s best for everyone else's business. Just trying to make the best decision for me, my family, and my restaurant"

Meanwhile, without take-out, Danny's Baboquivari Lounge posted on their Instagram Thursday last week to announce their re-closure:

Additionally, take-out restaurants such as CERES closed regardless. CERES posted on their Facebook on Thursday last week:

It breaks my heart to make this decision, but the safety of my staff and myself must come first ? We will be open tomorrow (Friday) but after that we will be closing up shop until it feels safe to reopen. We will miss all your shining faces!!! We love you Tucson and we know you’ll understand. If you’re coming by tomorrow, please wear a mask and keep a respectful distant from those around you.

Unfortunately for Mi Nidito Restaurant, Barrio Brewing Company, and El Chinito Gordo, they all had to recently announce temporary closures due to having an employee that tested positive for COVID-19.

Furthermore, a few restaurants have also permanently closed due to the sustained financial loss, including Athens on 4th Avenue and Chicago Bar. Those two restaurants alone were open for over 70 combined years.

Whether you are isolating or dining out, please be mindful and respectful to others.

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Article By

Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...

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