Urban Margarita and other Glendale restaurants

Urban Margarita and other Glendale restaurants prepare to reopen their dining rooms this week—with extra sanitization and other safety measures.

On May 11, many around Glendale for the first time in two  months heard this:

“Please follow me to your table.”

Gov. Doug Ducey banned eating in restaurants in mid-March, though takeout and delivery was permitted. Last week, Ducey announced people could begin eating in restaurants again May 11 — though with a number of restaurant safety restrictions  including  limited seating for spacing. 

Many restaurants, like Urban Margarita in north Glendale, are modifying dining rooms to provide 6 feet of separation between tables. At Westgate Entertainment District, Bar Louie, Fat Tuesday, McFadden’s, Salt Tacos y Tequila and other restaurants started seating customers May 11.

This week, the Desert Rose Pizza and Gastropub was able to reopen—but just barely. 

After previously operating the Gaslight Inn, Teresa Outzen and her partner, Peter Gliniak, have owned Desert Rose Pizza and Gastropub for four years.

The  Desert Rose was able to keep going only through the assistance of the national Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan-forgiveness program designed to keep employers from laying off staff.

“We already made the decision we were not going to open back up if we didn’t get it—we couldn’t,” said Outzen. 

Though other restaurants stayed open for takeout, Desert Rose closed completely, as Outzen said she couldn’t see the restaurant making enough to break even on payroll. And business had dropped during the pandemic even before Ducey’s March order.

“The thing with Arizona is from January to May 31 we’re extremely busy and put everything we make in to pay off all our bills, so we only have utility payments during the summer. I didn’t have a chance to do that this year,” Outzen said.

Business was already falling during the pandemic before Ducey’s March order.

“I was so deep in the hole already by the time the rug taken out. I have a house I was going to have to sell,” Outzen said. 

After waiting for weeks to hear about her PPP application from a large bank, Outzen filled out a second application with the smaller Leasing Corporations of America. “They were phenomenal. Within 10 days of my application, I had it,” Outzen said.

On May 1, she was able to deposit the two and a half months of payroll the PPP covered, just in time for this week’s relaunch of in-house service.

Outzen spent a few days walking around her house with a big grin, thinking about getting back to making ribs and bacon-wrapped shrimp for her customers (Outzen is also a chef). It was time to get down to planning how to follow new regulations.

Extra sanitizing was no problem, Outzen said: “All we did was scrub for two months.”

Desert Rose is now open from Wednesdays through Saturdays, with some house rules that may surprise regulars.

“We’re doing more than what state requires. We’re going to have everyone sign in with their names and phone numbers so we can track everyone that came in, in case a breakout happens,” Outzen said.

“And if people don’t want to do that, fine, don’t come in.”

The next challenge was figuring out staffing levels and rehiring employees she had to furlough. “We’re trying to get people back. I had 49 staff before we closed. Right now we don’t have any idea if we’re going to end up really busy or not busy. We’re pretty staffed up for Wednesday (May 13). See how it’s going to go,” Outzen said.

For a place that used to have upward of 600 customers on a weekend night, the Desert Rose bar and restaurant will intentionally try to slow things down, staying open only a little more than half of the week.

“We just want to see how it goes, then we will slowly open a little more,” Outzen said.

Desert Rose will provide free breakfast or lunch to first responders May 20 (RSVP required by emailing desertrosesteakhouse@gmail.com).