Tucson restaurant owners are pondering businesses they will miss after a pandemic closes

Tucson is known for its exquisite selection of bars and restaurants and its warm and welcoming atmosphere. However, with months of quarantine, curfews, and social distancing mandates, Tucson’s vibrant dining scene has changed dramatically.

Falling customer rates and the inability to support their businesses during these troubled times left many locally owned restaurants with no choice but to close.

More than 18 local bars and restaurants are permanently closed due to the effects of the pandemic, according to the Arizona Daily Star. In addition, Monique Vallery, creative director of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, stated that five restaurants have permanently closed on Fourth Avenue alone.

Members of the munity are devastated after losing some of their favorite restaurants. Of these members, other restaurant owners are particularly saddened by the closure of these businesses.


Jenny Rice, owner of Cafe Passe, expressed the difficulty of having to close neighboring small businesses due to the effects of the pandemic.

“It’s awful. People put their hearts and souls into these small businesses and then it’s just gone,” said Rice.

Rice himself has gone through many unexpected difficulties in the past few months. After her three-month shutdown, she was forced to close down her small seating area in the bar, letting go of many employees, and redesigning her menu options to adapt to the fighting in the cafes.

“I don’t think people understand what all these small businesses are going through together. We’re just a steam engine that keeps on running. It can be exhausting, ”said Rice.

Rice said she was grateful that with the support of the family and the local community, her business could stay afloat. Although she is deeply sad to have seen some of her favorite restaurants.

After previously working at Cafe Poca Cosa for nine years, Rice said she was broken when she heard of the final closure. She described the experience of working there as wild and exciting as the waiters put out boards to let you know the daily specials as the menu changed every day.

“Tucson really lost a gem in its closure,” said Rice.

Kylie Myers, owner of 4th Avenue Delicatessen, is also sensitive to the loss of other Fourth Avenue small businesses.

“It’s sad to see a local business up and running, and it’s a small town where everyone knows each other and everyone supports each other. Every time someone suffers, we all feel it,” Myers said.

As a new business owner, Myers said it was especially difficult to see locations close by closes.

“It’s very sad and it’s hard to watch it happen, especially as an owner. I am a new owner so it can definitely be scary, especially in the beginning there is a lot of fear and concern about what the future will bring. I’m definitely sad to see them go, ”Myers said.

Myers said she was confident the next few months will continue to move forward as the integration of online delivery apps like Postmates, Uber Eats and Doordash has helped steer her business in a positive direction.

Along with that, she said she feels confident that with the support of the munity, friends, family, students and high school kids, the avenue will stay busy.

Douglas Shields, a server at The Drunken Chicken, is also optimistic that small business sales will continue to grow.

Shields said they had financial problems a few months earlier, despite sales breaking records in the past month and a half. Despite the recent earnings momentum, Shield said he was disappointed that other local businesses couldn’t make it through these difficult months.

“It’s awful. I think more should have been done to help the smaller businesses. A lot of my favorite places were closed. I really enjoyed the staff and the surroundings in those places too,” said Shields.

Tallboys and Epic Cafe were some of Shields’ favorite restaurants along the avenue and he will miss the many dishes on offer.

“Epic Cafe had great coffee and Tallboys had good potato tacos and a bowl of beans and rice,” Shields said.

The loss of these popular restaurants challenged many members of the munity, but with the rise in vaccinations, local restaurant owners look forward to safely bringing their services back to previously established prices.

“I want to thank Tucson and everyone who has been helping us through the pandemic and everyone else who is very lucky. Keep doing what you do and hold your head up,” Myers said.

Follow Abbie Kosoc on Twitter.

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