The pop-up restaurant, Welcome Diner, is returning once again as a full-time restaurant.
The diner has no definitive open date, but will likely open in the near future, according to Sloane McFarland, principal of Martha+Mary, a development company in downtown Phoenix. Welcome Diner is a small, nine-seat diner located at Roosevelt and 10th streets.
One obstacle stands in the way as Welcome Diner begins its journey back into the culinary ecosystem of downtown Phoenix. A liquor license is pending, awaiting approval by the city.
McFarland has hopes to open the diner as soon as possible, but a plan for opening this year is tentative.
Welcome Diner used to pride itself on its quality food when it was known as a pop-up restaurant. It served characteristic diner food, such as burgers, sandwiches and ice cream floats. But the sale of alcohol can be an integral part of any thriving restaurant.
“I think that many restaurants depend on the sale of alcohol to sustain themselves,” said Dorina Bustamante, a community developer and local business advocate in downtown Phoenix. “As long as they do it responsibly, we openly welcome that.”
Furthermore, Sloane has proven with examples such as Lux Coffee Bar — a coffee shop that also serves alcohol – that a liquor license can be more than profitable. According to him, it is a key point in the process of re-opening Welcome Diner.
“I do have a passion for restaurants in general,” Sloane said.
The history of Welcome Diner has been turbulent, according to Reuben Brock, a former cook at Welcome Diner. It opened in 2006 and was open for a short period of time. It underwent management changes and was then re-opened as a pop-up restaurant from April 1, 2011 to July 4, 2011, when Payton Curry was the chef.
Bustamante, who is on the board of directors for the Evans Churchill Neighborhood Association and an advocate for small businesses and pop-up parks, is more than excited that the Welcome Diner is opening up once again.
“I don’t think he’s going to have a problem with gaining interest at the Welcome Diner,” Bustamante said. “With his work at Lux Coffee Bar and Pane Bianco, his cool factor is already established.”
According to Sloane, Martha+Mary is also interested in gaining the patronage of students from the Downtown campus as well as the locals of downtown Phoenix, even though figuring out optimal hours for the establishment is still in question.
“I just hope they hire some awesome people,” journalism freshman Justin Price said. “Not only that, but it would be sweet if the place accepted M&G.”
Bustamante, who has developed pop-up parks and recreational areas, is optimistic about Welcome Diner becoming a possibly permanent establishment.
“Because it was off the main drag of downtown, it was unique,” Bustamante said. “It was downtown Phoenix’s best-kept secret for all the cool kids.”
Bustamante also shares her excitement of Welcome Diner bringing in some “much needed competition.” With an attitude that says “the more the merrier,” the foodies of downtown Phoenix will welcome another establishment that introduces more competition among restaurants.
As Welcome Diner is still in its preliminary stages of development, this is something that will be followed closely by the adjacent community as well as the other local businesses that it will be competing with.
“I’m very excited to see something new down here, east of Seventh (Street),” Bustamante said. “It’s something the community is going to welcome — no pun intended.”
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