By Jason Keil, March 2021 issue
It’s tough getting any Valley restaurant off the ground.
But Ruben Gonzales, the owner of Eleventh Monkey, and Matthew Moody really had their work cut out for them when they opened Industry PHX, located where The Louie once stood at 607 West Osborn Road, late last year. Even before the pandemic forced businesses to readjust, the duo, who were the minds behind The Hustle dance parties at Kobalt, dealt with investors pulling out and headaches from neighbors. What’s kept them going through all of the stress is their desire to give the community something they knew it needed: a safe space for everyone.
They shared some of their stories with Echo Magazine in February. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Echo Magazine: I’m sure this has been an intense experience. Is there a particular moment that stands out?
Matthew Moody: You can start with the obvious: we are in an unprecedented time in the history of the world. We were under the belief that we would be able to open and function as a whole entity. Then you learn you can only open at half capacity, and you have to do this and that, so you’re already dealing with a lower income rate, and bills are coming in. And people understandably don’t want to come out, but you need them to so you can stay open. And we’ve never opened a restaurant before, so there’s a lot we had to learn in a short amount of time.
Ruben Gonzales: We also got put into litigation by our old partner. We can only say so much [about it], but it put us in a position that almost any money that Matt and I did have leftover as a cushion was gone. We had to go to something else, and that added a ton of stress. We were going to start in the negative, but we figured it out and got on our feet. But there’s always something you don’t know. Water lines break, pipes don’t work, and toilets don’t flush.
Matthew Moody: I tried to route a cable through a ceiling, and I drilled into a water pipe. I had a full mental shutdown. I didn’t know what to do.
Ruben Gonzales: It was like a waterfall, but now we know where all the water valves are.
Are you able to hold events right now?
Matthew Moody: A couple of weeks ago, I got four phone calls back to back from a city inspector saying that we can’t have events. I told them we’re not, but it took a while into the fourth phone call for him to understand that watching RuPaul’s Drag Race is like watching the Super Bowl. He said, “I need to call back. How big is your stage?” “It’s exactly zero inches. We don’t have a stage,” I replied. He asks, “Are people going to be dancing with masks on?” He didn’t know that it was a television show. And he finally grasped it, but the word “event” causes a problem.
Since the day we opened, I don’t think there hasn’t been a public office that hasn’t been called on us. When we started, we got a “Stop Work” sign on our window. And that’s not a joke. And it’s because I started posting pictures of our progress as we go, so the community felt part of what we were doing. All that did was allow somebody to make up stuff that was happening in the photo that wasn’t real and send it to the inspector’s office.
Ruben Gonzales: The city manager came in with a stack of photos. He saw what we were doing, and he was so annoyed that he had to come in.
It amazes me that people have the time to call and complain.
Matthew Moody: It’s so we wouldn’t exist or be competition to their favorite place. One of the things we’ve said from the beginning is that we didn’t want to compete with anyone. We thought there were missing pieces in our community. There were people who didn’t feel safe in certain spaces. We’re shouting, “This is for you!” We are all about radical inclusion. Once we fully get to open, we won’t be doing anything near what other bars do.
Ruben Gonzales: I’ve experienced this with Eleventh Monkey. People tend to get into this thing when a new business opens where they need to be greedy and can’t allow someone to go to another place. There’s enough business for everyone everywhere. Instead of being greedy, why don’t we work together to see what each other is doing to coincide with each other? Share the wealth.
PPP Loans weren’t available for anyone who opened after February 15. Are there other options you’re looking into?
Ruben Gonzales: Every bank is getting it differently, and I’m taking on that role and seeing what we can do. We’re allowed to apply for the second round.
Matthew Moody: We’ve had zero dollars of help.
Ruben Gonzales: People told us we could still apply during the first round. Technically we couldn’t. We had no money flowing. There was no number they could derive from because we didn’t have any employees. Now there is, so we’ll see what comes of it.
Matthew Moody: We’re trying to do all these things that the money is here for, but they mean everyone but us.
Have you used social media to help drum up business?
Matthew Moody: We’ve paid for ads and are working with alcohol distributors.
Ruben Gonzales: And anytime we have a viewing party, we’ve had local organizations come out and give out condoms, lubes, lip balm, and at-home HIV testing kits, which is very important right now. These are things that we’re able to do because we have the space now. The community needs it.
Matthew Moody: Both Ruben and I are crazy different guys who happen to like a lot of the same stuff, but we both said coming in that this wasn’t going to be a rush for bucks for us. It’s about our community and having a creative space for creative queer and non-queer people to come out.
We have a giant neon sign that says, “You are safe here.” It’s the focal point of the space, and it’s the whole point. The only rule is don’t be an asshole. We want people to talk to each other.
Ruben Gonzales: The city has a hold on our permit because of COVID. We’re at a point where if we can’t navigate through the pandemic as safely as possible, then nobody will be open. We both take COVID as seriously as possible. Eleventh Monkey is partially a mask shop, which I never thought I’d be doing.
We want people to feel comfortable walking in the doors knowing that we’ve taken the best precautions we can take to survive. It’s still nice to see someone. There are things as human beings that we all need. We get flack from some people for being open, but they’re not paying our bills. We have to do this. We employ people, and we need to keep their livelihood going, too.
Learn more about Industry PHX at industryphx.com.