Downtown Tempe’s historic Mill Avenue is soon to see two new bar concepts, Devil’s Hideaway and Idle Hands Enchanted Cocktail Bar, opening in February 2024 under the same roof in what used to be the historic Rula Bula building.
Tempe’s downtown area has long been a site for tourists, young professionals and college students to gather and mingle in the nightlife scene. But as of late, those advocating for a Mill Avenue that reflects the college town in which it sits have been disappointed by the commercializing and club-heavy development of the area.
Owner Julian Wright, a University alum and the founder and CEO of Fork & Dagger Hospitality, has owned and operated bar and cocktail concepts in downtown Tempe and downtown Phoenix for over 20 years.
Wright said he hopes to create the two unique concepts in a way that caters to the younger college population and Tempe residents alike.
"Devil's Hideaway does have some of the DNA from a very similar bar out in Phoenix called Lucky's Indoor Outdoor, which, depending on the day and time, caters to all kinds of different age groups and demographics," Wright said.
The interior of Devil’s Hideaway will feature a ceiling lined with historic-looking brick arches complemented by neon bar lights running along the inside space. Guests will be able to sit in sunken booths along the sides of the space or in a high-top chair by the bar.
The exterior of the former Rula Bula building will have the Devil’s Hideaway outdoor patio space, which will feature a walk-up order window and hanging chairs.
Idle Hands Enchanted Cocktail Bar will only be accessible through a hallway in Devil’s Hideaway, making its entrance hidden from the street or sidewalk. The small, 30-foot bar concept is centered around high-end cocktails and world-class mixologists. It will have art-deco-style windows and an ornate bar counter.
"It’s a very unique design and really like nothing else I've ever seen on Mill," Wright said.
In recent years, Tempe’s nightlife scene has received criticism from the younger student demographic for not having enough “college” bars and older generations for becoming too commercialized. With the multi-faceted project set to open in several months, Wright said he wants to use the atypical business setup to appease those criticisms.
"I feel like there's a lot of places that are trying to use the same playbook, presumably to attract the younger audience that they might feel is the only audience in the area," Wright said. "And I've had a lot of success over the last 23 years doing concepts that cater to the ASU crowd and folks that have graduated, up to almost any age, and I feel like that's lacking a bit right now."
Carlos Granados III, a sophomore studying marketing and advertising at the Tempe campus, owns the Instagram account @friday.beers.devils, a page dedicated to posting follower-submitted photos of University students partying. He said part of what drew him to ASU was its "No. 1 party-school reputation."
Though not the party school it was a decade or two ago, Granados said the nightlife in Tempe has been “pretty great” since he started at the University last year.
"What I’m hoping with Devil’s Hideaway is that, since they have two bars in one; hopefully, one of them is more lit and more euphoric, while the other is more traditional," Granados said, explaining he likes both types of bar "auras."
The soon-to-be opening of Devil’s Hideaway and Idle Hands Enchanted Cocktail Bar comes amid an “evolution on Mill Avenue,” according to Lori Foster, the interim President and CEO of Downtown Tempe Authority.
Foster said the COVID-19 era was devastating to the downtown Tempe area. But in the year or two following, pent-up demand hit areas like Mill Avenue, bringing pedestrian customers back to the historic part of Tempe in 2022 in greater numbers than in 2019, the year before the pandemic.
In 2023, the number of storefront customers has "lagged a little bit," Foster said.
According to Foster, the Downtown Tempe Authority (DTA) advocates on behalf of prospective business concepts to landlords and property owners, who the DTA hopes will be open to something that will be a “unique destination” not found elsewhere in the Valley.
The openings of nightclub-like establishments like C.A.S.A. Tempe and Varsity Tavern have, in recent years, created an opening for more traditional bars to flourish in the demand for something more relaxed.
"Something that’s not totally focused on the late-night club, college atmosphere, something that is more usable by various ages and different demographics," Foster said.
Edited by Sadie Buggle, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.