By co-owner Lee Fabrizio’s estimate, Growlers TapHouse in Marana generates 55% of its revenues from selling inventive burgers, crispy handmade onion rings, wings, tacos and salads, but Arizona liquor authorities don’t see the business as a restaurant.
Growlers is a bar in the eyes of state liquor officials. It operates under a Series 6 bar license, which is making it hard for the business to argue its way out of Gov. Doug Ducey’s order on Monday that all bars close in light of the state’s dramatically increased coronavirus cases.
Restaurants that serve alcohol and have the proper restaurant license can keep their dining rooms open so long as they make at least 40% of their revenues from food sales. Ducey’s order is in effect at least through the month of July.
But after reaching out to state and local officials on Tuesday to allow them to continue operating, Fabrizio, who owns the business with his wife, Dawn McMillan, and her son Dustin, won a reprieve.
In a Facebook posting just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, Growlers announced it had won its appeal and would be allowed to remain open.
*We received the thumbs up from Pima County and (Gov. Ducey's) Office to continue to operate regular business hours!" the post read.
Growlers, though, isn't rushing to open its doors; they will continue with takeout only this week to give their employees the holiday weekend off before reopening at 3 p.m. Tuesday, July 7.
Growlers was caught in a lurch with Ducey's order Monday that all bars close that night. The restaurant had just bought $10,000 worth of food that was to take them through the next two weeks given the volume of business they had since reopening in mid-May, Fabrizio said.
“We were going gangbusters and we were following all the rules,” Fabrizio said. “We got an excellent review from the Health Department on how we were doing business.”
Just how Growlers, which is a popular dining and craft beer destination for residents of Marana’s Continental Ranch community, ended up with a bar license is a long story, Fabrizio said. But it boils down to timing and opportunity. The only license readily available when they were putting the business together in 2017 was a Series 6 bar license. So they bought it, never imagining that it would one day be a liability in a pandemic, Fabrizio said.
“We ended up being more of a restaurant than a bar,” he said.
Even as the business closed down, Dawn McMillan continued Growlers’ program, quietly launched early in the pandemic, to feed the area’s homebound and homeless. She recently teamed up with a local church to expand the program and help more people hurt by the pandemic.
Coming July 11: Growlers' weekly Cheers n Beers Friends! patio dining and live music returns with Jay Allan.