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TODAY: Rula Bula Irish Pub in Tempe permanently closing its doors

Rula Bula Irish Pub.jpg
Posted at 12:06 PM, May 14, 2021

TEMPE, AZ — Rula Bula Irish Pub in downtown Tempe will serve its final pints of Guinness and close its doors forever Sunday, the bar announced.

Leading up to its final night, the bar planned a series of farewell toasts on May 19, May 22, and May 23, featuring Irish bagpipers.

"We would love everyone to come down for our final last call and experience the ambiance of Rula Bula and share their favorite memories from the pub one more time,” said Founder Steve Goumas in a statement. Goumas has since sold the bar to new owners but serves as its part-time director of operations.

The Irish bar, which has been a staple part of Tempe's nightlife for more than two decades, announced in April that it would close when its current lease expired but hoped to either work out a new agreement with its current landlord to stay or to find another spot to relocate the bar.

Ultimately, the owners and the landlord were unable to agree to terms on a new, long-term lease and another tenant has been found to take over Rula Bula's space, according to Wexford Developments, which owns a number of buildings in downtown Tempe.

Rula Bula decided to close the bar earlier than expected because they need the time "to carefully dismantle the historic bar, trade dress and artifacts by the July 1st deadline," a news release said.

Goumas told ABC15 in April that the custom wooden bar was built by Irish craftsmen in Ireland and brought to Arizona. He said it was built for Rula Bula's space and to last some 100 years.

It was not immediately clear if Rula Bula was able to find a new spot to relocate the bar.

Goumas said he felt the bar was being forced out and that Wexford Developments wasn't willing to fairly negotiate with them.

"We're good tenants. We pay our rent every month, and we're, we're busy. We have very strong business," Goumas told ABC15 in April.

Wexford Developments disputed those claims and said it offered a 10-year lease to Rula Bula in 2019, but that offer was declined.

"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 [sic] with what we were renting very similar space for in other buildings we own on Mill Avenue," a spokesperson said in a statement.

"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."

Wexford has so far declined to name the new tenant that is taking over the Rula Bula space but has said it would be another local restaurateur.

"The pub’s founders and owners are grateful for the outpouring of community support for this local staple. They are doing everything they can to take care of their dedicated staff being forced out of their jobs, some of whom have been with the company for 15 or more years," Rula Bula said.

They created a GoFundMe to help with the transition costs and to support its staff. As of Friday afternoon, the online fundraiser has raised $3,300 toward its $50,000 goal.