The coronavirus pandemic was the last straw for Tucson restaurateur Andreas Delfakis.
After 27 years of serving authentic Greek seafood alongside dolmathes and moussaka at his once-popular Athens on 4th Ave. restaurant, Delfakis called it quits over the weekend.
He announced on Facebook Sunday that he was closing the restaurant for good. Athens on 4th served its last meals on Saturday, June 20.
“All things have a beginning and an ending,” he said philosophically. “Nothing is forever. There are many reasons.”
But the reality came down to a simple truth, he said:
“When you don’t have business and you don’t have money to pay the rent, you close,” said Delfakis, who said he has not been able to pay rent on the building since March; his lease expired in May.
The closing comes after years of roadblocks, he said Monday. Athens on 4th Ave. survived the 2008 financial crisis and seemingly endless construction along North Fourth Avenue, he said, including 18 months of road diversions and closures when the city installed the rail for the Sun Link streetcar beginning in late 2012.
He even held out hope as cranes moved in and construction fences went up across the street where a high-rise apartment complex began to take shape early this year.
And then the coronavirus pandemic struck and Gov. Doug Ducey ordered life as we knew it — going to restaurants, shopping, the theater, bars — to pause in mid-March.
A couple weeks into the shutdown, Delfakis tried to keep the restaurant running with takeout orders, but “nobody is going to order Greek food every day,” he said.
“It’s not enough,” said Delfakis, who was born in Greece and has lived in Tucson since 1974.
Delfakis, 78, said he had pretty much decided when his cook quit with little notice a week ago that his restaurant was no match for the pandemic.
Hiring a replacement cook would be challenging at best and likely impossible given the nuances of the cuisine, and Delfakis, who had helmed the kitchen for years, couldn’t take over. He had back surgery three weeks ago and needs time to heal.
And there’s not much reason to work, he added, given that business has been painfully slow since he reopened in mid-May, especially given that he is operating his dining rom at less than half capacity to maintain social distancing requirements.
“There’s not enough business,” he said.
Delfakis said closing the restaurant does not mean he is retiring. He and a partner own the building at 2310 N. Country Club Road, right off busy East Grant Road, and in the near future they plan to open a small Greek deli and diner.