Southwest Valley eateries have differing approaches to reopening

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Southwest Valley eateries’ approaches to reopening are as varied as their menus.

Many restaurant owners announced their statuses on social media, thanked customers for their patience as everyone navigates changes wrought by COVID-19 and posted photos of what’s happening in their dining areas.

Heather Peoples opened Sipping Sisters Café at 308 N. Central Ave. in Avondale on March 14, just three days before Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order requiring restaurants to close their dining rooms to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

While there wasn’t time to establish the kind of customer rapport that comes with dining in, Ms. Peoples promoted the café religiously on her website and social media, offering daily takeout and delivery specials, selling barbecue on weekends and partnering with other local businesses to use their products and offer them for sale.

Sipping Sisters offers scratch-made soups, sandwiches and desserts, as well as pet treats.

On Tuesday, she said via Facebook Messenger she is excited to be back open, and will hold a virtual ribbon-cutting at noon Wednesday, May 13.

“There will be people in the store from the city of Avondale, and it will be live-streamed,” Ms. People said. “I am open for dine-in, so I have been posting for people to come join us. I would love to see support from the neighborhood. It has been a real struggle, that is for sure.”

One customer dined in on Tuesday, she said, and others ordered for curbside pickup.

“We have UberEats, Door Dash and Postmates. It is something we do not plan on stopping, either. People really seem to like the curbside,” she said, joking that “I need to get rollerskates for us all.”

Ms. Peoples said she wasn’t sure the restaurant would survive the COVID-19 closure, “but I have an awesome crew that has stuck with me and are determined to make it.” Her staff includes daughter, Brandi, who has been working alongside Ms. Peoples at the restaurant while finishing her senior in high school

Among the businesses Ms. Peoples has partnered with are The Panini People for chipotle ketchup, Spicy Tavern barbecue sauces and rubs, and Blue Ridge Coffee. A partnership with a local honey supplier also is in the works.

“Plus, I do dog treats and I’m dog-friendly as well,” she  said.

Weekend barbecues feature everything from pig wings to ribs, brisket and giant turkey legs, Ms. Peoples said, adding that “everything we do is smoked in-house and scratch-made.”

Ian and Stephanie Harwell, owners of Ground Control, a restaurant and beer bar at 4860 N. Litchfield Road, Suite 103, Litchfield Park, announced Sunday they would offer limited seating for in-house dining, with seven tables available, and open seating on the patio.

“WE SURVIVED!” they said in a Facebook post. “There will be open seating on the patio on a first-come, first-serve basis. Inside the restaurant, there will be seven tables available. If you would like a table inside, we highly recommend making a reservation to help us prepare for the number of guests we can expect … We will only be allowing a maximum of 24 people inside for seating, plus three people at the bar.”

The restaurant opened for lunch Monday, and the Harwells described the day in a Facebook post that evening.

“Today sure was interesting. Felt like we had to retrain ourselves how to do things and where to find things we need for table service. Admittedly I was very skeptical about opening up for dine-in seating but sure was fun to actually see people have a good time again … and doing it responsibly respecting social distancing and proper sanitation practices,” they wrote.

Ground Control will continue offering takeout and delivery for those with health issues, or who aren’t comfortable dining in.

“Tables are spaced out and blocked off in accordance with social distancing,” they said Tuesday via Facebook Messenger. “The website to order for pickup or delivery is toasttab.com/ground-control, and this includes coffee, food, beer, beer growler fills, bottled wine, mead and canned cold brew.”

Saddle Mountain Brewing Company, a restaurant and craft brewery owned by Jacob and Laura Hansen at 15651 W. Roosevelt St. in Goodyear, posted photos of a busy lunch hour on its Facebook page Tuesday.

“It’s such an emotional sight for me. To see all the community support as we open our doors for dine in,” the post read. “Thank you all!”

That post and another announcing the reopening sparked some controversy, along with many supporters’ kudos for the Hansens’ decision not to require masks, though staff and customers are free to wear them if they wish.

“Some friends of mine want to support local, wondering if masks are required? (Patrons or staff). They are not fans,” Lequetta Bramer asked on the restaurant’s event post noting it would open for lunch at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

“Nope if you are healthy,” came the reply, which prompted Maria Sobol’s question, “how do you know if someone isn’t asymptomatic and carrying the virus?”

“We don’t any more than you do,” Laura Hansen responded. “The guidance says to develop a policy … we developed one in which the healthy adults that work for me choose if a mask is right for them. You, as an adult, get to choose what is right for you. We will sanitize continuously and do all that is required by the environment services department for cleanliness and food quality.”

“I’ll be there in a bit, hope there is room!” Jill Thommen commented on pair of photos showing diners at tables and several people elbow to elbow at the bar.

“Don’t know if I would post pics of people sitting next to each other at the bar. The internet police might use that against you,” Steve Weaver wrote, adding laugh emojis and, “Something to consider.”

Laura Hansen said via Facebook Messenger that the group sitting at the bar arrived and sat together. She also explained to Mr. Weaver that half of the restaurant’s seating has been removed and tables have been staged more than 6 feet apart.

A few doors down, the much smaller Enroute Coffee and Tea House remained close for sit-downs, but was open for walk-ins, call-ins, curbside pickup and delivery.

“Even though our governor has allowed certain businesses to open up, we as business owners have decided that the guidelines that are provided aren’t safe given our space,” Brittany Salazar and Deni Banach wrote on their Facebook page Monday. “We cannot accommodate a limited capacity seating and walk-in orders while adhering to the social distancing guidelines.”

Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at kosullivan@newszap.com or 760-963-1697. For up-to-date local reporting on all things COVID-19, Independent Newsmedia has created a webpage dedicated to coverage of the novel coronavirus: #AZNEWSMEDIA

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