PHOENIX — After weeks of their dining rooms empty and transitioning to to-go-only operations, many restaurants in Arizona reopened on Monday and eagerly welcomed guests back into their dining rooms.
Arizona Gov Doug Ducey gave the green light two weeks ago to restaurant owners to begin reopening their restaurant dining rooms on Monday, May 11, as long as the had social distancing and safety protocols in place. Many restaurants reopened on Monday, while others were preparing to reopen later in the week. Other restaurants have decided not to reopen just yet.
OHSO Brewery and Distillery reopened most of its restaurants on Monday, something guests and employees said they were excited about. In March, the brewery had to layoff more than 400 employees. They were able to rehire 200 of those employees for the week ahead, a staff member said.
"I missed it. I missed the people, interacting with everybody. I just miss working, I love bartending, so it's a lot of fun," said Heather Cady, a bartender at OHSO.
For Emma Deaton, a server at OHSO, she said a huge weight was lifted off her shoulders when she received the call to come into work. "It was like, it was a godsend. I was like I cannot wait to get back to OHSO," she said.
OHSO Brewery @ohsobrewery in Gilbert reopened for dine-in today after almost two months. I talked to servers who are happy to be back after being laid off. There's a decent crowd in here already. @abc15 pic.twitter.com/PAV9OhDrNP— Claudia Rupcich (@ClaudiaRupcich) May 11, 2020
Server Austin White told ABC15 that he was happy to be at work, but admitted it felt a bit unusual.
"It feels weird. I'm happy to be back, but it feels weird," he said. "I know we have precautions and all that stuff, and I trust our managers and all that. I was ready for it. I'm still a little uneasy, but I'm preparing myself so I'll be fine."
Other restaurants in downtown Gilbert are preparing to open soon.
The Brass Tap, a Tampa, Florida-based craft beer concept, plans to reopen its restaurants in Gilbert and Mesa on Wednesday. Workers were seen Monday cleaning menus, checking the presentation, and any areas that guests could or would touch.
"I got bored at home, I love being around people," said Meaghen Meehen. "I've been in the industry for so long. We're just excited to interact with people again."
Next door, Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row said on Facebook that its staff was preparing to reopen sometime this week. Fox Restaurant Concepts hasn't yet announced when its Gilbert restaurant, Culinary Dropout, would reopen.
Bianca Sanchez, a manager at Snooze, an AM Eatery, told ABC15, "We're all going a little stir crazy in our houses and looking forward to that camaraderie, that sense of family and being able to serve and get back to what we do, which is hospitality."
Most employees ABC15 spoke with said they were happy to be back at work after nearly two months off the job, not just for financial reasons, but to feel a sense of normalcy.
Not all restaurants reopened, however. Plenty of eateries posted messages on their Facebook and Instagram accounts saying they would remain closed for a while longer, citing employee safety, customer safety, and the pandemic.
“I miss my customers, I miss my regulars, I do miss spending time wit them but it’s just too early right now... Yeah, it's not worth it to us to get that little bit of extra revenue and risk people getting sick or people getting us sick, it’s just not worth it to us,” Alex Geiger, owner of Classic Crust Pizza.
Last week, salons, nail salons, and barbershops were allowed to reopen in Arizona with some places seeing hours-long wait times.