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Damage Control

Downtown restaurateurs recover from last weekend’s downtown riot

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Smashed windows, scrawled graffiti and dumpster fires were on the menu and downtown eateries like Charro Steak, Charro Del Rey, Penca and Cartel Coffee Lab became unwilling hosts of protesters' rage.

Many local restaurants were already struggling due to two months of pandemic restrictions. While Gov. Doug Ducey gave the green light for restaurants to return to dine-in service over two weeks ago, many restaurateurs chose to remain closed until evidence showed the spread of COVID-19 was slowing.

Ray Flores, owner of Charro Steak and Charro Del Rey, was hoping to be reopened for dine-in service by the week of Father's Day. Now, he isn't sure if that will be possible. Protesters broke 12 windows of his two restaurants that are housed on the same block in the Julian-Drew Building. To make matters worse, Charro Steak has to special order two large amber-tinted glass windows that take nearly two weeks to arrive, Flores said.

"The whole thing sucks because we were planning on opening on June 14, but now that depends on the cleanup and glass arrival," Flores said. "It was important to be open by the week of Father's Day because that's the last good weekend of business that we would normally experience."

Flores said he saw a post on social media about his neighbors at the AC Marriott getting their windows smashed during last Friday's protest. He soon bolted out the door to check out if his restaurants had also been damaged. On his way downtown, a former employee texted Flores to let him know someone had smashed all the windows to Charro Del Rey. The riot had moved down the block by the time he arrived on the scene, Flores said, but the damage was done. Now his main concern was getting the windows boarded up to protect the tenants living above.

"We were really afraid that someone might throw a Molotov cocktail through the window and hurt the people who live above," Flores said. "I decided we would have to board everything up. We were able to fill up some of the bigger holes and our friends at Penca also brought some wood over."

Penca Restaurante sits about a quarter-mile down Broadway Boulevard from Flores' eateries. It too was a target during the riot. The majority of the restaurant's windows were broken out by protesters. Penca chef David Solorzano got the news his restaurant was under attack when one of his bartenders texted him. Employees were in the building at the time helping get the restaurant prepared to open in the near future, Solorzano said.

"When I heard the news, I just ran over there," Solorzano said. "We were planning on opening soon but obviously not now."

Both Solorzano and Flores said they understand why people are outraged over police brutality in the nation. However, both restaurateurs said they fail to understand how hurting local businesses accomplish their goals.

"I completely understand the outrage that is going on in the country at the moment. But I believe there are different ways of going about it," Solorzano said. "I feel like destroying your own community, especially a business of a Mexican woman, kind of goes against what they were trying to accomplish."

Flores said he would have rather used the money he is spending on cleaning up after the riot toward helping the protesters' cause. As it stands, he and his family are still attempting to reopen to dine-in service by Father's Day.

"It's just sad because, at the end of the day, we're local," Flores said. "I wish I was putting the money into something more beneficial to the cause, instead of deductibles on an insurance claim."

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