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Tempe mainstay Rula Bula pub to close in June when lease expires

(Wexford Developments Photo)

PHOENIX – The final last call is approaching for Rula Bula Irish Pub and Restaurant, a downtown Tempe fixture for more than 20 years.

Patrons can still raise their pints of Guinness for a “sláinte!” toast until the end of June, when the Mill Avenue spot’s lease expires.

The venerable business near Arizona State University survived through the disruptions of streetcar construction and the COVID-19 pandemic, but it couldn’t reach a deal to extend its lease after the building’s ownership changed two years ago.

“Despite the realities of our current situation, Rula Bula’s long-term community involvement and consistency in providing quality food, beverage and service, in an authentic and enjoyable atmosphere, has allowed Rula Bula to take its place as the longest surviving independent restaurant on Mill Avenue,” founder Steve Goumas said in a press release.

Goumas was hoping to sign an extension of 30-100 years after Wexford Developments, which owns multiple Mill Avenue properties, purchased the building in January 2019. The restaurant said it pursued the lengthy deal in the tradition of the Guinness’s 9,000-year lease at the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin.

Wexford said it tried to work out a shorter lease but the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement.

“We attempted to renew Rula Bula by offering them a 10-year option to remain in the space at what we believed was a fair market rate, commiserate with what we were renting very similar space for in other buildings we own on Mill Avenue,” Wexford co-founder and principal Sam Gordon told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“After much discussion over several months, we were unable to agree on renewal terms with Rula, and given the impending lease expiration, we decided to go in another direction.”

Gordon also said Wexford tried find a new home for Rula Bula in another of its buildings but couldn’t finalize a deal.

Florida-based Wexford owns seven downtown Tempe properties, including Tempe Town Center, CenterPoint on Mill and First + Farmer.

Rula Bula is located in the historic Andre Building, which was built at 401 S. Mill Ave. in 1888 to house a saddlery and harness shop.

The pub says its name was derived from an Irish Gaelic phrase that translates to “uproar and commotion” in relation to having a good time.

Gordon said Wexford was quickly able to find a new tenant for the location at the market rate.

As part of the deal he agreed not to reveal who was moving in, but he said it was a local business.

He said it would likely be several months after Rula Bula closes before the new tenant is ready to debut.

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