Nick Tsalikis and daughter

Pita Patio owner Nick Tsalikis, right, and his daughter show off some artwork fresh from a patio chalking lesson. A possible interpretation: Tsalikis and many other business owners are feeling blessed to have gotten through the pandemic.

COOLIDGE — Whether the city gets a Burger King or brewery in the near future, the city will finally see existing restaurants become more open.

With COVID-19 case numbers going down around the state, Gov. Doug Ducey announced last week that bars and restaurants could “resume normal operations.” Although the move was criticized by some as premature, it was nevertheless a signal that venues could adjust operations back to a sense of normalcy.

“They feel like they can breath a little bit now,” Coolidge Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lynn Parsons said. “Restaurants will continue to do as much safety as possible, but everybody is hoping that we are coming to the end of this.”

In the meantime, Parsons said there would be more opportunities for restaurants to receive funding through the Arizona Commerce Authority as a way to recoup pandemic-related revenue loss.

The Pita Patio Grill was one of the few full-service venues in Coolidge that was able to survive without dramatically adjusting operations.

Owner Nick Tsalikis said that he thinks the restaurant, which only opened a few months prior to the pandemic, was saved by its spacious outdoor seating area.

“During this whole pandemic, we barely get anybody to sit inside,” Tsalikis said. “That tells me they feel more comfortable being outdoors. We could have the whole place empty and people would choose to take the back corner table all the way at the end.”

Other restaurants in the city such as Tag’s Café and T&M Pizza had to either cut opening hours or switch to takeout entirely.

Another longtime local mainstay, the Galloping Goose, has not been open at all during the duration of the pandemic. The bar and restaurant is holding interviews this week for roles including servers, cooks and bartenders, as they look to open again.

Tsalikis said he’d been talking with the Goose’s owner, Scott Wohrman, about cross promotion opportunities as both have venues for bands to play. Tsalikis said that it would be nice to have a diversity of venues where people could go somewhere for dinner, and then go out later in the evening.

Shorty’s, a local bar that dates back to the 1950s, had planned to reopen prior to the pandemic but is waiting to do so.

On the flip side, several businesses were able to open downtown during the pandemic, including a Mexican ice cream parlor, Sabor la Michoacana, and Nana’s Coffee Shop, located just behind the Pita Patio’s courtyard.

In the near future, Tsalikis also said that he could open a brick oven pizzeria in one of the buildings he owns along Coolidge Avenue. At some point this year, Tsalikis said the Pita Patio and VFW will jointly put on a smoke barbecue competition, as well as another car show.

“We want to turn Coolidge into a destination,” Tsalikis said. “Bringing people out into the town, they can see the ruins, all these cool things here. It was scary being a business owner during the pandemic, but we made it through it and hopefully it doesn’t get bad again.”

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Aaron Dorman is a reporter covering Coolidge and the surrounding area. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.