The COVID-19 pandemic has hit local businesses hard throughout greater Tucson. However, few businesses have suffered like the restaurant industry. While other stores can survive through online retail, restaurants need to be full in order to make ends meet. And with the stopping and starting of different shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, it’s that much more of a challenge for business owners dealing with perishable items to know when they should order more, hold back, and how they should take care of their staff.
Sadly, there have been a number of restaurants that have gone under in the last year. Some of these restaurants have been fan favorites and long-time holdovers. Some may eventually open back up. Others may stay closed. Here are many of the restaurants that have closed in Tucson.
While not a restaurant, it’s worth mentioning this location because it had been open for a whopping 94 years. However, after it fell behind rent while closed the landlord switched the locks. It would seem to be better business to let a business owner work through the rent issue rather than kick someone out and wait for a replacement in this current business climate, but the landlord had other ideas.
It’s always sad when a long-running restaurant closes its doors. That’s what happened with El Indio. The owners had been contemplating retirement, and this forced their hands. Chances are you won’t see this spot popping back up.
Speaking of long-standing restaurants, Gee’s Garden is now closed. The Chinese buffet is now an eating staple, but Gee’s Garden was the first to offer this service in the entire state, opening back in 1975.
There’s a lack of quality Greek restaurants here in Tucson. And now that number has dipped even further. Athens on 4th Avenue is no more, despite its best efforts to remain open. It was a 4th Avenue staple for 27 years.
As strange of a drive bar as you’d find in Tucson. When the owner refers to himself as “God” you know you’re in for a wild night. The guy even had an actual branding iron of his face that he’d offer to brand people with. And people would take him up on it (over 3,500 people, according to “God”). This joint shut down, and God sold everything through his Facebook page (from liquor bottles to credit card machines), so this spot isn’t coming back.
This spot was a word-of-mouth kind of location. It didn’t advertise. It didn’t market. It didn’t even try to sell its beers outside of the shop. But that’s what made it cool and hip. You had to be in the know to end up here. It closed its doors in October, but as restrictions loosen up don’t be too surprised if this spot eventually pops back up in some capacity.
There aren’t many James Beard award winners running restaurants in Tucson, but Janos Wilder, the owner of Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, was one of them. The landlord sold the building it’s rented out of and Janos was not able to extend his lease with the new owner. Due to this, he shut the restaurant down for good.
The Speedway dive joint had its own following. It was also one of the best spots for live blues music. It shut down for good last June
One of the restaurants in Tucson serving high-end Mexican cuisine, Elvira closed its doors because it did not have the kind of outdoor seating needed for the “outdoor eating only” days of the pandemic. If you crave the restaurant’s food you’ll need to head out to Tubac's Elvira’s restaurant there.
One of the best known Mexican restaurants in Tucson (and one of the more pricey), this restaurant had been in business for about 30 years, although owner Suzana Davila recently announced the permanent closure. She said she wanted to pass it off to her children, so if that dream remains, who knows, it might return in some capacity.
This spot closed and left town in a hurry. It was a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of thing. But since so many locals were stuck inside at different moments of the pandemic it was easy for this closure to happen seemingly overnight. It shut down in June and, almost as quickly, the sign was pulled down and everything inside the restaurant was removed. With everything moved so quickly there’s a good chance this restaurant pops up somewhere else in town, just under a different name.
This is another restaurant that won’t be returning. The steakhouse, where you could order drinks from a glass cowboy boot, ran for 32 years, but they closed up shop and handed off the space to another restaurant.