Release Date: Thursday, September 20th 2012
Newly opened Firehouse fills unpopular Mill Ave. space
By Ana Ramirez
A new business is attempting to break the rumored curse that has haunted the northeast corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive for the past four years.
Firehouse, which opened its doors Wednesday night, will be the fifth restaurant to occupy the building at 4 E. University Drive since 2008.
T-Mobile associate Andrew Lemley, 21, said he believes most of the businesses that occupied the building have failed because the corner is at the end of Mill Avenue.
“If (friends and I are) going to Mill, we usually start at 6th Street,” he said. “We usually start at Mill Cue Club and work our way (south).”
Ruby Tuesday occupied the corner for 14 years until it moved to Tempe Marketplace, a venue that has taken much of Mill Avenue’s business.
Sucker Punch Sally’s Diner occupied the building for six months in 2008, then DiVerti Bar and Grill took the diner’s place for nearly a year and the more recent Devil’s Den lasted only four months.
“The businesses haven’t been able to have enough hype,” Lemley said.
Bryon Russel, the owner of Zuma Grill on Mill Avenue and 6th Street, said he’s looking forward to Firehouse coming to Mill Avenue.
“We look at it as the more the merrier,” he said. “If there was just one bar, no one would come down here.”
Russel has owned Zuma Grill for eight years and said he noticed people on Mill Avenue tend to bar hop. He said he hopes having more restaurants and bars will help Mill Avenue become more of a destination spot.
Firehouse owner Michael Alexander said the restaurant has bar food and healthy options.
“I’ve put a lot of energy and creativity into this place,” Alexander said.
Inside, vintage comic books cover the old brick walls and 2,000 beer cans line the entrance.
Speakers and flat-screen TVs surround bleachers near the bar. An original 1949 Pumper fire truck also sits beside the bar.
Alexander said the bleachers and the bar are good places to watch sports, but it’s also a good place to take a date.
There are live disc jockeys, music ranging from new age to R&B and dancing that creates a fun atmosphere, he said.
“We cater to everybody,” Alexander said.
Alexander opened the first Firehouse in Scottsdale in 2010. The Mill Avenue location will be the second of its kind.
He said driving under the influence becomes a big issue when students have to take an expensive cab ride up to Old Town and back or risk driving drunk.
With the new Tempe location, students can walk instead.
He said he’s keeping food and drink at reasonable prices.
Firehouse offers $3 import and domestic bottles until 10 p.m. every day.
They also offer half-price happy hour appetizers from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Alexander said he chose the location because he feels it’s a staple to Mill Avenue. When people talk about ASU, they think of Mill Avenue, he said.
He said with a campus of more than 70,000 students, he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to open a restaurant nearby.
“I felt like Mill needed this right now,” Alexander said.
Alexander said he remembers in 1999 when Mill Avenue was packed and it was a fun place to be.
He said the concept of his restaurant will help bring back some of that crowd.
“I’m just an ASU guy, and I just want to see it packed,” he said. “I’m a believer in it, and hopefully everybody will see it that way too.”