Most local restaurants and bars here in the greater Tucson area have opened back up, at least in some capacity. Whether the locations are offering only dine-out options or now allow for in-restaurant eating, these establishments have done everything in their power to weather the COVID-19 storm. However, despite most locations being open now for several months, there have been a handful of Tucson favorites that have remained closed. At least until now.
Two of the most popular locations with a very loyal client base are now finally returning to serving customers here in Tucson: The Shelter, and Riley Craft Pizza and Drink.
The Shelter is truly a unique bar here in Tucson. Thanks to its rounded construction design and the eclectic decorating featuring nods to John F. Kennedy and Americana, guests have long enjoyed the flavored vodka and gin cocktails, as well as a variety of special drink deals throughout the week. However, with the lack of any extensive outdoor seating and with a very tightly wound design, there wasn’t any real way for the bar to open up and serve customers during the pandemic.
This Wednesday, April 28 will be the grand re-opening of The Shelter. It has been closed for an entire year now, so the dive bar is looking forward to seeing customers back. Hours of operation will be the same as the pre-COVID days (3 PM until 2 AM). However, if you had a favorite bartender you, sadly, will not have the same server this time around. With a year off, the former employees have moved on to other jobs (although it is always possible for some of the old staff to return).
Riley Craft Pizza and Drink is another fan favorite that will be opening back up after a full year of being closed down. Riley has plenty of more space available for guests, but to make sure everything is as safe as possible, the establishment has seen an investment of $100,000 to add more outdoor space above the current beer garden. This accounts for around 2,000 more square feet of outdoor seating space.
Combine this with the current open-air beer garden and there is now room for Riley Craft Pizza and Drink to seat more guests while maintaining social distancing. In fact, Zach Fenton, a co-owner of the restaurant, believes the additional seating space could bring in another $700,000 in annual revenue (although for the time being this will likely go to help aid in the loss of revenue the restaurant has not received due to the extended closure).
One thing that won’t be opening back up, at least for the time being, is the Tough Luck Club. The hidden basement bar tucked in the underbelly of the restaurant is one of Tucson’s hidden gems. It also has one of the more unique lists of cocktails on its menu, with alcohols you won’t find in most other Tucson bars. The speakeasy-like joint, which is surrounded by brick walls and is already a tight squeeze, will not be part of the re-opening. At least not yet.
As COVID numbers continue to decrease and as the vaccination numbers continue to mount, additional areas around Tucson will start to open, including the rest of Riley Craft Pizza and Drink, as well as the Tough Luck Club. The food and drink industry is also listening to not only federal and state regulations, but Tucson city ordinances as well. Everyone is hoping that by the time cooler weather starts to trickle in here in Tucson (we have some time for that) restaurants and bars will be able to accommodate their usual indoor seating area for customers.