Lumberjax has been a hot topic in Flagstaff since its first opening. This establishment was prepared with a variety of gluten-free and vegan options on the menu, but it first had to adapt to the ongoing pandemic and learn how to cater to NAU students.
On Sep. 17, The Lumberjack published an article about the restaurant, which included statements from locals about their experiences at Lumberjax. According to this article, several people had positive things to say about the restaurant, but also found many faults with how it was operating.
Steven Grubart is the owner of Lumberjax and The Pizza Patio, a restaurant in downtown Flagstaff. Lumberjax opened Aug. 14 and after an overwhelming response from customers, took the initiative to close Aug. 20 to 28 to address concerns about COVID-19, Grubart said in an email interview.
According to The Lumberjack article first published, Nancy Sobek, a Flagstaff resident who lives next to the Lumberjax, said it did not seem as if anyone was following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
Grubart explained the construction for Lumberjax began in November 2019 and COVID-19 distanced the restaurant from its goals. Grubart said it has been a growing experience to understand certain behaviors that were fine a few months ago are now unacceptable.
“The customers I talk with are almost all enjoying Lumberjax, and our business has been very good throughout the COVID-19 restrictions even with half occupancy,” Grubart said. “We provide face masks for everyone and require all to be seated with a maximum of 10 per table to respect social distancing.”
Lumberjax head chef Christopher Peckham said it is exciting that people are becoming more aware of the restaurant and they have been getting a lot more traffic for late-night dining, even with COVID-19 precautions in place.
“I think COVID hasn't been easy for restaurants here in Flagstaff or throughout the country, moreover,” Peckham said. “You know, with having to be about 50% capacity, there have been longer wait periods for people to dine in, but we also have a beautiful patio which we do extensive distancing following all CDC and local guidelines.”
Grubart also said he wanted to address the noise concerns that have been brought up by neighbors. He explained the restaurant is taking proactive steps to enclose the patio with tents to minimize sound for local residents while still trying to maintain the outdoor area to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Grubert also said someone reported the restaurant for serving minors alcohol three weeks before the restaurant opened. He said it was impossible for them to serve minors with the restaurant not open yet.
“It's strange how false rumors can spread, and unfortunately this one was malicious in nature,” Grubart said.
According to the previous article in The Lumberjack, a source was not asked for ID when buying a drink. Grubart said Lumberjax allows valid vertical IDs within 30 days of turning 21, they give patrons wristbands and have added additional fencing to keep minors out after 9 p.m.
Overall, Grubart and Peckham both said serving plant-based fresh food is important to them. Peckham said with good food and service, the goal for the Lumberjax is to make sure everyone leaves happy.
“I believe the best promotion for a restaurant is to serve innovative, quality fresh food that promotes good health for your customers,” Grubart said.
Lumberjax had to be responsible for incoming changes, especially because they were opening the restaurant amid a pandemic. Grubart said they are working around these problems that have arrived in order to serve healthy food to healthy customers.