TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – An iconic Tempe gathering place will close its doors after its lease runs out this summer. Rula Bula Irish Pub & Restaurant, a Mill Avenue landmark for more than 20 years, will shut down by the end of June.
Rula Bula is closing because its owners were not able to agree on lease renewal terms with their new landlord. "We're a good tenant. We're a desirable tenant. We're being treated like a second class citizen," said Steve Goumas, founder of Rula Bula. "It just hasn't gone anywhere. They really haven't been negotiating seriously, in my opinion."
Sam Gordon, co-founder of Wexford Developments, tells Arizona's Family that they tried to negotiate an option for the pub to remain at its location on Mill Avenue, but the parties couldn't come to an agreement.
His full statement reads:
In early 2019, 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.
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. We located a fantastic tenant for Rula's space very quickly.
Despite our not being able to agree on a long term extension with Rula, Rula continued to voice their desire to remain in the space or on Mill Avenue, and we tried to work with them to find another space within our portfolio to relocate them, also to no avail. We wish the Rula team all the best in the future.
Rula Bula’s owners say their business was well-positioned to continue to thrive post-pandemic. Now they're trying to do their best to take care of their staff members, launching a Go Fund Me page to help them. And despite the impending closure, owners say they remain grateful for the decades of support from the community.
“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,” said Goumas. "I think everyone that's been in Tempe long term, you know 15 - 20 years, has had some sort of memorable experience at Rula Bula."
Rula Bula, located in the in the historic Andre Building, has been recognized by Trip Advisor as being in the top three percent out of two million restaurants nationwide. It's a well-known destination for ASU students, Tempe residents and out-of-town visitors alike. The historic pub is one of the area’s few remaining live music venues, as well as the site of Tempe’s favorite St. Patrick’s Day event.
Rula Bula also has a charitable connection football great Pat Tillman. The pub was a favorite hangout of the late Tillman, and had become the home of fundraisers for the Tillman Foundation including the annual Pints for Pat and Pat’s Run.
"I think they're gonna lose a social gathering place that's rooted very deeply in the community," said Goumas.