Mesa restaurants ready to ‘platter up!’ for baseball The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa restaurants ready to ‘platter up!’ for baseball

February 14th, 2021 Mesa Tribune Staff
Mesa restaurants ready to ‘platter up!’ for baseball
Mesa
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By Tom Scanlon
Tribune Managing Editor

For many Mesa restaurants, Spring Training equates to “platter up!”

Local restaurants and other businesses staggering from the pandemic expect the start of Spring Training – pitchers and catchers are scheduled to start tossing this week with games beginning Feb. 27 – to be a boost, even with expected restrictions on attendance.

It might be more of a solid double this year than the grand slams of springs past, but the return of baseball is eagerly awaited by Mesa businesses.

“That’s great news,” Mangos Mexican Cafe manager Omar de la Cruz said, when told Spring Training would start as planned.

Even with fewer fans expected in the stands, the manager of the family-owned, downtown Mesa restaurant beamed over the return of baseball.

“Any help we can get now is great,” de la Cruz said.

Mangos has been a downtown fixture for a quarter-century, benefiting from as much as a 25 percent boost in sales for Spring Training – during normal years, that is.

“It brings people to town,” de la Cruz said, of spring ball. “And it brings people to downtown Mesa. They come for the weather and Spring Training. It’s a good thing.”

De la Cruz said the federal Paycheck Protection Program helped Mangos keep paying its employees to make tamales and grill shrimp.

“We got the PPP. That’s what helped us out,” said de la Cruz, who manages a staff of nine.

He said Mangos also received a boost by participating in the al Fresco off Main program, launched Jan. 15 by the city and Downtown Mesa Association.

Al Fresco off Main is a courtyard with outdoor, distanced seating where people can bring food they ordered from any downtown Mesa restaurant to the outdoor eating area on MacDonald Street off Main.

This week, Downtown Dash delivery service and live music were added to al Fresco off Main. Music and delivery are available 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

Al Fresco off Main will continue every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through April. Throughout the day, staff will clean chairs and tables provided by the city and Mesa Arts Center.

The restaurant program went over so well, the city this week launched Mesa Open Air, allowing businesses to temporarily move their waiting areas outdoors to parking spots, sidewalks, green spaces and other places normally off limits.

While businesses must pay for equipment needed to expand outdoors, the city will waive permit fees and fast-track applications within two to four business days.

“We’re getting the word out to the business community that there’s more help out there,” Mayor John Giles said, at a recent study session. “The al fresco approach with restaurants has been successful.”

At Mangos, “We’ve had a few people come and take food over there,” de la Cruz said of al Fresco off Main.

The New Year has been quite a change from the darkest days of the pandemic, when Mangos closed for two months.

Sally Harrison, president/CEO of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, said spring ball is coming at the perfect time for a battered business community.

“I think they’re tired. They’re just all trying their best to adapt to the rules and the new way of doing things,” Harrison said.

As a volunteer at the stadiums, she can’t wait to see “loyal fans coming from Chicago or Oakland.”

For the business community, baseball means big bucks.

“The restaurants plan for spring training … It’s a huge revenue source for all our restaurants,” said Councilman Mark Freeman – who should know, as both Mesa stadiums are in his District 1.

“We always call Spring Training our ‘Christmas in March’ because we do very well,” Councilman Kevin Thompson said.

“We’ll probably have reduced seating at both of our parks. It’s definitely going to be different,” Harrison said. “It’s going to hurt.”

“I think it will have an impact, not being fully open,” Thompson agreed.

But, he added, “It’s encouraging to see Spring Training hopefully open on time.”

Julie Spilsbury might be the newest member of city council, but she has lived in Mesa her entire life.

Slimmed down or not, she welcomes Spring Training.

“I think it’ll be really great,” Spilsbury said.

“Even if like me you’re not a big sports fan, Spring Training is something people love. It will make people happier,” she said.

Spring Training in Mesa begins with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Chicago Cubs noon Feb. 27 at Sloan Park. The next day, the Seattle Mariners visit the Oakland Athletics at the A’s home, Hohokam Stadium.

Freeman might have summed up Mesa’s attitude toward Spring Training best:

“I’m looking forward to it, even if it’s a work in process.”

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