PHOENIX — At least 45 bars, restaurants, bakeries, and dessert shops in the Phoenix metropolitan area have permanently closed during the coronavirus pandemic, a devastating reality toward an industry that was hard hit, practically brought to a halt, earlier this year.
Not every business that closed publicly cited the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for their closure — however, a large amount of them did. Some closed without an explanation, while others closed due to disputes with their landlords over rent or reopening plans.
Others said the mitigation efforts to slow the spread early on — closing dining rooms, transitioning to curbside or delivery, limited capacity, event cancellations — reduced sales that some owners were economically unable to overcome.
For weeks now, restaurants in many Arizona counties, including Maricopa County, the largest county in the state, have been able to reopen their dining rooms at 50% capacity, while continuing to offer takeout, pickup, and delivery. Bars that serve food have also been able to reopen, as long as they reopen as a “restaurant.” Traditional bars that do not serve food must remain closed.
“The state of the restaurant industry in Arizona is one, we’re holding our own. We’re not in a celebratory mood. Could things be worse? Yes. But, we’re very grateful from the public response we’ve had from our lifelong customers, in some cases, patrons, regulars in our establishments keeping us going, as well as people who are willing to try something new,” said Steve Chucri, president of the Arizona Restaurant Association, in a recent interview with ABC15.
“The biggest deficit…that we’re still sadly seeing is that we’re only operating, as you know, at 50% occupancy in the restaurant community,” he said, adding that he hoped to work with Gov. Doug Ducey’s office to increase restaurant occupancies to potentially 75%.
We’ve been keeping track of the bars, restaurants, and other food-related businesses in the Phoenix area that have closed since March, following social media posts, emails, and news reports. Our list does not include every closing, but the ones that we know about. If we missed one, send an email to email@example.com.
Macayo’s Depot Cantina
An iconic landmark in Tempe for decades, Macayo’s Depot Cantina permanently closed in March 2020, a spokesperson for Macayo’s corporate office told ABC15. In 2019, the Johnson Family sold the Macayo’s brand and most of its restaurants to Kind Hospitality, but retained ownership of the now-closed Woody’s Macayo in downtown Phoenix and the now-closed Depot Cantina. ABC15 was unable to reach the Johnson Family for comment.
Owners Lauren and Peter Paulsen announced on Facebook in March that their coffee shop and bakery had closed. “The last few years have been an amazing time, and we have taken pride being a part of your day. From the regulars who came every day to the first-timers! Thank you for your loyalty and being part of our Lilac family,” the post said.
Fajitas A Sizzlin Celebration
The 33-year-old Tex-Mex restaurant, located across from Metrocenter Mall near Black Canyon Highway and Peoria Avenue, closed in May, the Arizona Republic reported. The owner told the newspaper that the COVID-19 pandemic was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Mi Vegana Madre
Mi Vegana Madre, a vegan-vegetarian restaurant in Glendale, closed in July, citing economic hardships because of the pandemic. “Sadly, due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, we will be closing our restaurant,” a Facebook post read. “Thank you to all that have supported us and have shown us so much love.”
FarmBoy Market, Meats, Sandwiches
Oren Molovinsky and his wife, Diana, own Molovin Farm, a 3.5-acre farm in Chandler. They opened FarmBoy, their restaurant in Chandler, to help increase awareness about the state’s local agriculture and small-batch production, Oren told ABC15 in an email. The restaurant closed in August after being unable to negotiate a reopening plan with its landlord.
After 22 years, Charleston’s closed its restaurant near Interstate 10 and Chandler Blvd. in Chandler in May. The announcement was confirmed in a Facebook post.
McMahon’s Ice Cream
McMahon’s Ice Cream was a small-batch ice cream shop in Chandler. It closed in July after saying that it did not sustain enough businesses to stay in business. “Huge thanks to our many loyal customers who recommended, reviewed, invited friends, encouraged neighbors to try, and just showed a great appreciation for McMahon’s Ice Cream. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough customers to keep up with the constantly rising expenses,” the restaurant said in its goodbye message.
Barrio Cafe Grand Reserva
In April, James Beard-award winning chef Silvana Salcido Esparza announced in an emotional Instagram post that her fine-dining Mexican restaurant, Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva, had closed. It opened in 2016. “It’s time to say goodbye to Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva,” she said in the video. “But what I am going to do is I’m bringing all that heart and spirit that I brought here back to the Barrio Cafe where I’m going to start over. Barrio Cafe is still going to be called Barrio Cafe because that’s it, but honestly it’s not going to be the same Barrio Cafe, I promise you…” For weeks, Chef Esparza used her kitchen and staff, as well as donations from the community, to make hundreds, if not thousands, of meals for first responders and healthcare workers in the Valley.
Caveman Burgers was one of the first economic casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the owner of Caveman Burgers, a burger joint, announced in a Facebook post that his restaurant would close after 3 1/2 years in business. “In this environment, it’s not sustainable to keep the business open,” the owner said in a Facebook video. “I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m disappointed. I’m especially sad for the employees that work for me are going to be losing their jobs as well. It’s been really special to create jobs for people and employ them, see their lives change and grow. A lot of my employees have been with me since the beginning.” Aioli Gourmet Burgers, a popular burger restaurant in Phoenix, recently opened in the former Caveman Burgers space.
Bri, a restaurant in the Coronado Historic Neighborhood that specialized in small plates, closed in mid-March, two years after it opened. “It’s been a wild two years almost to the day! Wouldn’t have guessed in a million years it would end like this, but we were lucky to have been able to do what we love even if it was a short lived!” the restaurant said in a Facebook post.
Delux Burgers + Sushi
A staple in the Biltmore area, Delux Burgers + Sushi was a late-night restaurant that served burgers and fries, as well as sushi. In a statement on its website, the restaurant decided not to renew its lease and closed after fifteen years in business. “I want to express my sincerest gratitude to all our devoted guests, dedicated staff, and management team. Without you, none of the success we enjoyed could have happened!” said owner Lenny Rosenberg.
El Zocalo Mexican Grille
After 20 years, El Zocalo Mexican Grill in downtown Chandler closed its doors on Cinco de Mayo. “We raise our glass to out Zocalo families and to the many friends and families we have had the privilege to make and serve We have experienced unforgettable memories and we thank all of you that have worked along side us helping to make it all possible,” a Facebook post read.
Mark’s Cafe, a breakfast restaurant in Tempe, shuttered its doors early on during the pandemic. It was in business for 17 years, according to its Facebook page. “Like many other middle class American families, we are saddled with debt. The café has debt as well, and these combined are insurmountable,” the owners wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.
Sierra Bonita Grill
After 15 years, Sierra Bonita Grill, a neighborhood southwestern restaurant in Phoenix, announced in May that it has permanently closed. “Due to the circumstances of the events that have transpired over the past two months, the financial burden on our operations has been too great to overcome. We are so very grateful for everyone who has supported us over the past 15 years. Because of you, Sierra Bonita Grill embodied everything that is a locally owned, neighborhood hangout,” the post said.
Dos Gringo’s – Chandler and Tempe
Dos Gringo’s, a local chain of Mexican restaurants in the Valley, has closed both of its restaurants in Chandler and Tempe, leaving its Mesa location as the one remaining restaurant open. In a June article, the Arizona Republic reported that the Chandler location saw a decrease in customers that was amplified by the COVID-19 pandemics and restrictions that were in place early on. Also in June, the Tempe restaurant closed. “We are sad to say we have closed our doors for this location. We have been honored to be apart of your FUN FOOD FUN TIMES,” a Facebook post said.
Steak ‘n Shake
Steak ‘n Shake, a popular fast-food chain primarily in the Midwest, closed its restaurant along Mill Avenue in Tempe, after being locked out by its landlord, according to a notice that was posted to the door. It was Steak ‘ Shake’s only location in Arizona. Detroit Coney Grill, a local restaurant with locations in Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale, is opening in its place.
Blue Adobe Santa Fe Grille – Gilbert
After two years, Blue Adobe Santa Fe Grill in Gilbert closed its doors, primarily citing the pandemic, said owner Michael D. Savoie. He said being a relatively new restaurant, it did not have the customer base to survive the pandemic. Blue Adobe’s restaurant in Scottsdale remains open.
The Brass Tap – Gilbert
Two years after opening in downtown Gilbert, The Brass Tap closed, rebranded, and reopened as Da’Bayou Creole Kitchen. The Brass Tap — part of a Florida-based chain — remains open at Mesa Riverview in Mesa. “We are so excited to announce our vision and passion, something we have been working on for the last few years. We introduce to you the grand opening of Da’Bayou Creole Kitchen!” a Facebook post read. Da’Bayou, as its name suggests, offers creole cuisine and southern-style seafood, according to its Facebook page.
Garden Fresh Restaurants, which owns Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation, announced in May that it would close all 97 of its restaurants nationwide, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. “As you may have heard, we are unable to reopen our 97 Soulplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the company said in a statement. “The outpouring of love on social media has been overwhelming and we are so grateful to all of the sweet memories you have shared with us. We would like to thank our 4,400 team members for their dedication and love they have shown to our local communities.”
Four Peaks – Scottsdale
In early May, Four Peaks closed its taproom and restaurant in north Scottsdale. Zach Fowle, communications manager for Four Peaks, told ABC15 back then that the restaurant’s closure and was not due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but because that location’s lease was up. “The pub’s lease was set to end this year, and we were planning to reevaluate its future at the time,” he said in an email. “We made the decision to close in order to focus on our two breweries in Tempe and our pub in Sky Harbor.”
Scottsdale Beer Company
Scottsdale Beer Company, a gastropub in Scottsdale, closed in July, said managing partner Doug Ledger. “The decision to close was based on two primary factors…Our ability to remain financially solvent in the near future while maintaining a safe environment for our guest and staff, and our perception of the future of the industry over the next 1-3 years, which grows continuously concerning as we see the COVID virus and the subsequent governmental responses unfold,” he said in an email.
Lucky Strike, a high-energy bowling alley with cocktails and food, closed its location at CityScape in downtown Phoenix earlier this year. Lucky Strike Entertainment did not respond to ABC15’s requests for comment. However, Red Development, which owns CityScape, confirmed that Lucky Strike had permanently closed. “RED Development and the CityScape property team have been working with Lucky Strike to reopen their doors since the stay-at-home order was lifted, unfortunately, the company will not be able to do so. We are currently speaking with potential replacement tenants that are eager to take the space to the next level, and look forward to sharing the details soon,” a statement said.
La Bocca Urban Pizzeria – Phoenix & Tempe
Both locations of La Bocca Urban Pizzeria at High Street in Phoenix and along Mill Avenue in Tempe closed in June. Kyle Mason, vice president of operations for Mill Avenue Management Group, confirmed the closures. “It is with heavy hearts that we must announce the closing of our beloved La Bocca Urban Kitchen. For many years we have proudly served our neighborhood great dishes and libations, as well as, being a place for friends and family to gather for good times,” the group said in a statement.
Phoenix Public Market Cafe
The Phoenix Public Market Cafe in downtown Phoenix has closed after seven years. The restaurant had been closed since March when initial restrictions were put in place. Chef and owner Aaron Chamberlin told ABC15 in a phone interview that he was unable to find a viable way to keep the restaurant open. “This decision was not made lightly. Given the challenge of the past 6 months we could not find an economically viable path to continue operation without our students, conventions and (business) travelers,” a post on the restaurant’s Instagram said. Chamberlin’s other restaurant, Taco Chelo, remains open.
La Piazza (Phoenix) and Piazza Romana
Owner and chef Justin Piazza, a familiar face on Guy Fieri’s “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives,” scaled back his operations to focus on La Piazza in Glendale. La Piazza in Phoenix and Piazza Romana in Avondale have both closed. “We’ve decided with all that’s been going on the last six months, to scale back our operations and put all of our eggs in one basket,” he said in a video posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page. Noting it was a sad day, Piazza said it was also a good day because customers will be able to get some of their favorite dishes from both La Piazza and Piazza Romana at the Glendale location. The Phoenix location was open for six years, Avondale for a year and a half, and Glendale has been open for 13 years, he said.
California Pizza Kitchen – Chandler
In July, California Pizza Kitchen voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to “equitize the vast majority of our long term debt,” the CEO said in a letter. Prior to that, CPK did close some of its restaurants because of “lease-related challenges with our landlords.” The CEO said at the time that there were no plans to close any further restaurant. CPK did close its restaurant at Chandler Fashion Center mall in Chandler. Its other locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale remain open.
Uncle Bear’s Grill & Tap – Ahwatukee
Uncle Bear’s appears to have closed its restaurant in Ahwatukee. That location is no longer listed on its website. Its locations in Mesa and Queen Creek remain open.
Majerles – Chandler
After 13 years, Majerle’s Sports Grill at Chandler Fashion Center mall closed in August. Howler’s Restaurant and Sports Bar quickly opened in its place. “Thank you all for supporting us over the years. We’ve always appreciated each and every one of you…from our regulars to our new friends, our incredible staff to our amazing sponsors…and of course our investors for which none of this would have been possible,” a Facebook post said.
Commander Hamburger, a burger joint that was part of The Churchill, an outdoor food hall in downtown Phoenix, closed in August, according to the Arizona Republic. Chef Bernie Kantak told the Republic that his restaurant was unable to overcome the mandated closures, lack of events, and reduced foot traffic.
Freak ’N Brewing Company
The Peoria, Arizona-based brewery closed in early March after six years in business, according to its website. Glendale-based Throne Brewing bought the facility and opened a second location in Peoria. “We want to thank you for your support these last nearly 6 years! We have enjoyed meeting all of you and brewing the Freak’N beers you’ve enjoyed, but the time has come to move on,” a Facebook post read.
After temporarily closing at the beginning of the pandemic when restrictions on bars and restaurants were put in place, SideBar has made the closure permanent. Owner Josh Parry opened the upstairs cocktail lounge in 2008 — nearly 12 years ago — near 7th Avenue and McDowell Row. “Thank you for loving SideBar like I did. Thank you for all the times you chose to share part of your life with us. Thank you for being part of my SideBar family and sharing so much joy in our second floor home,” Parry said in a Facebook post. Sky Restaurant Concept, who’s behind Squid Ink, is opening Highball Cocktails in its place.
Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery
Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery closed both of its Arizona restaurants in Tempe and downtown Phoenix over the summer. In June, both restaurants closed immediately, according to posts on their Facebook pages. “To our Tilted Kilt Tempe family thank you for all of the memories and good times. We’ve been truly grateful for our guests we regard as family,” one post read. Mario Rana, the owner of State 48 Brewery, said he plans to open a gastropub in the former downtown Phoenix space.
Carlos O’Brien’s Mexican Restaurant & Pub
Carlos O’Brien’s, a local chain of Mexican restaurants, closed one of its three remaining Valley restaurants in June, according to its website. The restaurant off Northern Avenue has permanently closed. In 2019, the chain’s Avondale restaurant closed, according to the website. Its restaurants in North Phoenix and Scottsdale remain open.
Claim Jumper, a national American restaurant, has closed its restaurant in Tempe, near Arizona Mills Mall. Michael Kelly, of Kelly’s Companies, a San Diego-based hospitality group, told ABC15 that the restaurant lost its lease. Claim Jumper’s two restaurants in Avondale and Tucson remain open.
In an emotional video on Instagram, Allison DeVane, owner and founder of Teaspressa, a local tea company that was one featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, announced that she has closed two of her shops — one in Ann Arbor, Michigan and one at Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin West in Scottsdale — and paused operations at her Arcadia and downtown Phoenix stores, citing the impacts of COVID-19. “Is Teaspress going away? Absolutely not. That’s why this decision had to be made. My job is to, when we do come back and open our stores, that we’ll be stronger and better than everything you’ve seen to date. It will be better,” DeVane said. Teaspressa’s online store remains up and running.
After 15 years, Sweet Cakes announced that it would close its store in downtown Mesa and would relocate, according to a Facebook post. The bakery’s last day was July 31. “We are sad to announce we will be closing our downtown Mesa location and moving locations. Our new home is still unknown. But we want to let you all know how much we love and appreciate you,” the post said.
Famous Churros, a dessert spot in Phoenix that specialized in baked churros, permanently closed, citing the coronavirus pandemic for its closure. “Unfortunately, Famous Churros is now one of the business casualties of COVID-19. Although we received a small amount of SBA to help cover rent, payroll, and utilities for two months, we were denied multiple times for PPP and any grants,” a Facebook post said. In a September post, the business said a food truck was coming soon.
The Harp Irish Pub
After 11 years, The Harp Irish Pub, an Irish restaurant in Mesa, closed in August after negotiations with their landlord reportedly broke down, according to a Facebook post. “With much sadness, we have to let you know, negotiations with our landlord have broken down. They have officially locked us out of the building. We feel it is very short sighted of them, it is ultimately their decision. We will be back! A different location sometime in the future, for now, we say see you later!”
Americana – Tempe
Americana, a bar and gill off Tempe’s Mill Avenue, has closed, a spokesperson for Yam Properties, the landlord, confirmed to ABC15. The bar did not make any formal announcement about the closure, but its website has been deactivated and its Facebook page hasn’t been updated in several months.
Desert Cider House
After four years, Desert Cider House, a small-batch cidery in Chandler, has closed. “With a great deal of consideration and deliberation, and in light of the economic realities brought on by COVID 19, we have made the difficult decision to wind down our business, and close our doors,” a Facebook post said. “It has been an absolutely amazing run and the best part of it all has been meeting so many of you!”
CaskWerks Distilling Co.
The small-batch distillery in Tempe announced in September that it would have to close after a lease dispute with its landlord. It opened in Tempe five years ago, according to a Facebook post, and is currently looking for a new location. “After overwhelming legal battles to stay, we are now forced to find a new home. Which is no easy process. This is an extremely difficult journey plus a major financial impact to rebuild as well,” the owners said in a Facebook post.
Growler USA, a Colorado-based restaurant that’s focused on beer and growlers, has closed its location at High Street in North Phoenix, said Bryan Laurel, principal at Syndicate Marketing and Events, and handles the public relations for High Street. Growler has another location in Tucson.
Teakwoods Tavern and Grill
Teakwoods, a neighborhood bar and grill appears to have closed its restaurant in Chandler after being locked out by its landlord, according to Mouth by Southwest, a local blog that follows restaurant openings and closings. Its restaurant in Gilbert remains open.
La Calabria Ristorante
La Calabria Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in Gilbert, closed its doors at the beginning of September, citing the coronavirus pandemic. “Due to Covid19 we are forced to close the door.
We say thanks to everyone who supported us through the years. This is a hard decision to make but unfortunately right now we have no other choice,” a post on its Facebook page read.
Uno Mas Cantina
Uno Mas Cantina announced in September that because of the pandemic it would permanently close its doors. “Due to Covid-19 UNO-MÀS Cantina will be permanently closed. We would like to thank everyone for your patronage and the memories. We made alot of new friends and hope to see your faces around Ahwatukee,” a Facebook post read.