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Devil's Advocate is not closing yet, despite plans for demolition

In wake of plans for demolition to make way for a luxury, high-rise apartment complex, Devil's Advocate will remain open through the remainder of its lease, until 2029


The Devil's Advocate Sports Grill, a staple in the ASU and Tempe community on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023 in Tempe.

Devil's Advocate, an ASU-themed sports bar and restaurant, has no plans to relocate or dismantle amid construction plans for a luxury, high-rise apartment complex at its location. 

Aspirant Development, a Scottsdale-based division of Empire Group, bought 3.66 acres of land across two plots, one of which is home to Devil's Advocate,  off Rural Road and University Drive. They intend to build a luxury apartment complex geared towards high-paying residents, not students, according to Randy Grudzinski, the head of capital markets for Empire, in an article by AZCentral.

Empire is planning to demolish Devil's Advocate and the storage facility located on the other lot, but a timeline has not been established, according to AZCentral. Tempe's Development Review Commission recommended the project for approval, and it will have its first hearing at the Tempe City Council on Sept. 7

Jarred Stetser, owner of Devil's Advocate and ASU '04 alumnus, said the establishment has no plans to close or move until its lease expires in September 2029. Empire bought the property in June 2023, and Devil's Advocate pays them rent. 

"They have plans for eventual demolition, but they can't do it until my lease is up, or if they were to buy me out of my lease," Stetser said. "My plan is to stay for the remainder of our lease and continue operating as normal."

Stetser said he has no plans to sell out the lease, and has faced no pressure to do so by Empire up to this point. 

The previous landlord of the bar and Empire have been in escrow, a financial agreement where an asset is held by a third-party during a transaction until certain conditions are met, for the last two years. Devil's Advocate is the third-party that is holding onto the asset, the building, in the transaction between the previous owners and Empire until the lease expires.

Due to this agreement, Stetser wasn't surprised by the news that Empire plans to demolish the restaurant.

"The previous landlord told me they were in escrow and they were selling the property," Stetson said. "It doesn’t really make any difference to me, because they have to honor my lease."

Stetser said he is not thinking about the future of Devil's Advocate following the expiration of the lease, and is focused on keeping the business running as usual. 

"Most restaurants and bars don't even stay open for five years. Devil’s has been open for 14," Stetson said. "I would like to see Devil's live on but, again, we haven't started planning for that yet."

During his time at ASU, Stetser worked at Maloney's, an Irish pub that used to inhabit the building Devil’s Advocate is now. When Maloney's closed in 2009, Stetser approached the owners and signed a lease for the property with his idea of a place where students could embrace their ASU pride. 

"I just saw an opportunity to open something more Sun Devil themed," Stetser said. "I approached the (owners) and said, 'Hey, I'd like to open this restaurant,' … I didn't know it was going to be Devil's Advocate, I came up with the name during the process." 

William Calvert, a sophomore studying business, said Devil's Advocate is a community hub for both current and graduated ASU students, and its destruction would mean the erasure of a staple of ASU’s social life. 

"Devil's is a great place to socialize and many students would be upset with its demolition," Calvert said. "For a town filled with college students, Tempe needs as many great bars as possible."

Edited by Alysa Horton, Jasmine Kabiri and Caera Learmonth.

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