Eddy Gerlach’s eyes darted around the place he has worked for 19 years. The lead bartender at Black Angus Steakhouse on Scottsdale Road and Lincoln Drive smiled broadly as he reminisced Monday afternoon while workers hurriedly removed paraphernalia from the onetime food and entertainment night spot that closed Sunday.
In the same location since January 11, 1979, Black Angus served what Gerlach said was a dinner crowd of about 180 people on its final night. Gerlach said he, like many of the patrons who learned about the closing when they arrived Sunday, was “shell-shocked.”
“It was the place to eat in north Scottsdale,” said the 36-year-old Gerlach who, along with cook Rulfo Najera, started the same year and were the location’s longest tenured employees. “It had a nightclub atmosphere. We used to have live entertainment until around 10 years ago. This building has been an attraction to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. It’s kind of a landmark.”
Gerlach said he remembers engagements, birthday parties, anniversaries and couples who said they came back because they first met at the restaurant.
He said being a part of people’s special moments and hearing their stories through the years touched him.
“I had trouble sleeping last night,” Gerlach said. “It’s my home. I spent more than half my life in this building. It’s a blow. It’s like a death in the family.”
The end came quickly. Employees were notified early last week and all were offered jobs at the Black Angus near Scottsdale Road and Loop 101 or another at 20th Street and Camelback Road in Phoenix. Signs directing patrons to the Loop 101 location were put up on Wednesday. Many employees will relocate including some, like Gerlach, that will go to the 20th Street restaurant.
Gerlach said he was told Black Angus’ lease was up and the land owner didn’t renew it because of plans to demolish the building.
Randy Wilcox, Black Angus operations vice-president, who has been with the company for 30 years and worked at the Scottsdale location, was on the scene Monday. Wilcox, based in the company’s corporate office in Los Altos, Calif., said he didn’t know who owned the building, its fate or who the property manager is.
“When they had early evening dining and late-hours entertainment, lines were out the door,” Gerlach said. “It had atmosphere. It always has been a Western or country place. It’s a barn-style layout, like the one I’m going to. There were branding irons on the wall, cowboy pictures, signs. Some of the newer locations have a similar feel, but not as much stuff as the old ones like this. I’ve seen some interesting things and people in this place.”
Among celebrities Gerlach said came in during his watch were athletes Barry Bonds, Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Mike Tyson and country music superstar Kenny Chesney. Gerlach didn’t know who Chesney was; he later found three of his albums on the restaurant’s jukebox.
Gerlach’s fondest memory is of Tyson, who ate at the restaurant alone on Thanksgiving night 2004.
“It was the only time he came here,” Gerlach said. “He was a very nice man. He had about a $50 tab. He tipped the waiter $50 and asked for the cook to come out and gave him $25. He was personable. He seemed to like the place a lot.”
So did Gerlach.
“I grew up in south Scottsdale and I had people come in from all around the city,” Gerlach said. “There were people I went to school with, nuns who taught me, friends. They’ll all miss it here. So will I.”