Biscuits at Club West Golf Course reopened today, April 8, and owner Lloyd Melton was more than a little jubilant.
"I feel like a yoke has been lifted from my shoulders," he said, adding that within an hour of opening his doors at the clubhouse, his restaurant was already three-quarters full.
Melton got city approval to have water service to the course put in his name on Thursday and got county food inspectors’ approval on Friday to reopen.
That opened the door for his staff to spend Saturday getting food orders for all his menu offerings and prepping the clubhouse venue.
“It’s one small victory,” said course owner Richard Breuninger.
County health inspectors abruptly ordered the restaurant closed about a week after the city Water Services Department shut off water to the course on Feb. 22 because of a delinquent bill totaling more than $210,000.
Though Breuninger still owes that sum, Water Services listened to pleas by Melton, Breuninger and city Councilman Sal DiCiccio and his staff, who said Biscuits had been penalized for something over which he had no control.
After the water was shut off, Melton kept the restaurant open for about a week by bringing a tank that contained potable water.
But inspectors for the Maricopa County Environmental Health Services Division shut down Biscuits for violating code requirements that require eateries to obtain water from an approved source and that forbid “hauled or transported water for continuity of the supply” except in an emergency declared by the department.
“Maricopa County policy requires suspension of the operating permit of businesses with serious conditions constituting an imminent public health threat,” a notice told Melton. “Your permit is hereby suspended.”
Now all the water to the course is in Melton’s name.
From here on in, he’ll be responsible if water were to be turn on for the course, said DiCiccio’s chief of staff, Sam Stone.
But Breuninger said he won’t be doing that, and instead continue to work on a deal to pay off the delinquency, refinance a $1.3 million note he signed with former course owner Wilson Gee to buy the course and work with others on a long-term solution tom the course’s water problem.
That problem involves the course’s reliance on costly potable water. A plan has been in the works to run a pipeline from an SRP canal along the southern edge of the South Mountain Freeway, then under the freeway and eventually to both Club West and Foothills golf courses.
Foothills currently irrigates its course with a well, but Gee, who owns Foothills, said the pipeline would be there in case that well ever ran dry and could be of immediate use for irrigating Club West.
Breuninger had made the reopening of Biscuits his top priority after running into financial problems that he blames on the course management company.
“I love Lloyd like my father,” he told AFN, recounting how Melton has spent thousands of dollars getting the clubhouse restaurant ready to open last November.
Melton, who owns another Biscuits on Elliott Road in Ahwatukee and eateries in Gilbert and Tempe, said the shutdown came a costly surprise.
Open only since late November, Biscuits quickly achieved considerable popularity at Club West. The latest of four Biscuits restaurants Melton owns in the East Valley, the Club West eatery was attracting standing-room-only crowds all weekend.
“I had three parties scheduled, too,” Melton added, including one for 80 people.
“People love it,” he said of his restaurant. “I’ve known a lot of those people a long time because they came to my other Biscuits on Elliot Road.”
Melton said he continued to keep his 17 employees on the payroll, partly because they’ve been trained but also because “my employees are like family to me.”