Venue Projects Beef Eaters sign

Longtime lawyer eatery Beef Eaters Restaurant, about to be reborn via Venue Projects

Here is a Friday Change of Venue story that really goes above and beyond. Let me explain.

Change of Venue is my casual Friday, where I divest myself of the pressing need to remain focused on law and law practice. I mean, give a guy a break!

Today’s story is a little far afield. But as I examined it, I realized how lawyerly it was. (Just when I think I’m out, they puuuull me back in!)

The story relates to an announcement just yesterday. The shell of a former restaurant is being transformed into a space that will house three diverse businesses.

So right away I spot a problem. This story has “adaptive reuse” scrawled all over it, and there are few land-use topics that are more lawyer-heavy than that one.

Making it worse is the name of the former restaurant: Beef Eaters, in Phoenix. That venue was a prime eatery of lawyers when it operated from 1961 to 2006. So as much as I want to give you an attorney-free, protein-rich blog post today, I’m afraid I can’t do it.

Who remembers lawyer meetings at Beef Eaters? I do!

The wood-paneled restaurant near the intersection of Central and Camelback was often lousy with lawyers back in the day. At yesterday’s press conference, a speaker pointed out that Beef Eaters was a site where many of the business deals that shaped the Valley were hammered out (and a few lawyers got hammered).

I recall quite a few State Bar of Arizona Section meetings being held there. It was always a pleasure to walk into the banquette-filled dining room. (Ironically, because Sections always watched their pennies, we never ate beef while we were there; we were chicken-only diners.)

Anyway, in case you’re wondering, here is what is slated to move into the refurbished digs by November 1:

  • A restaurant being developed by Justin Beckett, the culinary mind behind the award-winning Beckett’s Table.
  • Another branch of Changing Hands Bookstore, the first outside Tempe of the nationally recognized independent bookseller.
  • A collaborative office, work and meeting space, called The Lively Hood (say it slow; you’ll get it.)

The project is being conceptualized by Venue Projects, the folks who adaptively reused numerous other spaces in town, including the restaurant now known as Windsor/Churn.

Lorenzo Perez of Venue Projects said, “We’re salvage-hounds,” as he waxed poetic about the walnut floors, antique chandeliers and masses of clear oak they discovered on the property.

Even the seats for the press conference speakers—described by City Councilman Tom Simplot as “Austin Powers chairs”—came from the property, and will likely find a revised home in the new space. (See the fantastic chairs below.)

Venue Projects L to R: Shannon Scutari, Kimber Lanning, Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot, Mar. 28, 2013.

L to R: Shannon Scutari, Kimber Lanning, Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot, Mar. 28, 2013.

Other speakers were builder John Kitchell, Local First AZ founder Kimber Lanning, and Shannon Scutari, of the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, which had pointed out that the Light Rail-adjacent parcel could be eligible for a significant amount of transit-oriented development funds (there I go with the legal stuff again). The architect on the project will be John Douglas, FAIA, who has designed, among other things, the Phoenix New Times building and the Heard Museum.

In honor of the Beef Eaters longtime owner Jay Newton, the project is called “The Newton.” And in synch with the project’s nostalgia, Lorenzo said he would like to hear people’s Beef Eaters stories. What events, happy or otherwise, did you attend there? Do you have photos of events and family gatherings? How about business (or Section) meetings?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

To prime your interest, take a stroll over to the website of Modern Phoenix, where they have captured the leather-bedecked interior, pre-construction.

Have a great weekend.

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