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Arizona Cardinals owners buys Tom’s Tavern in downtown Phoenix

[Source: Glen Creno, The Arizona Republic]

Tom’s Tavern, a landmark downtown Phoenix restaurant that had been on the brink of closing, has a new owner dedicated to keeping it open and preserving its identity.

The Bidwill family, owners of the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League, bought the restaurant that has built a reputation as a favorite spot for the big names of government and business. It will be run by a new division of the company the Cardinals created to operate the food service at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Tom’s has been around in various incarnations for more than 80 years, but it was put up for sale last year when its owner, Michael Ratner, could no longer spend the time he wanted running the place. He was spending most of his time in treatment for esophageal cancer and said that if a buyer couldn’t be found, the restaurant would be closed.

Ratner died in November after a two-year battle with the cancer. But before his death, Michael Bidwill, the Cardinals’ president, paid Ratner a visit and expressed interest in buying Tom’s.

The deal closed late last week and the new ownership hopes to reopen soon, possibly today, after a cleanup and inspection.

Tom’s was a favorite spot for Bidwill during his six years as a federal prosecutor in Phoenix. He said he had known Ratner even before that and believed it was important to keep the restaurant going.

“It’s been a downtown Phoenix tradition,” Bidwill said. “Too often, we see these kind of places close. I didn’t want to see Tom’s close. There’s too much history there.”

The original Tom’s opened in 1929 in a nearby neighborhood. A restaurant group bought the brand and moved to the restaurant’s current location at Central Avenue and Washington Street. Ratner owned it for 18 years before deciding to put it up for sale last year.

Ratner had said Tom’s business was disrupted by construction of the light-rail line and the CityScape development. He had been expecting a bump in business after the rail construction was finished and said he thought CityScape would bring more people into the area. He never got much of a chance to take advantage of either. He had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation in an effort to rid himself of cancer. Eventually, it became difficult for him to get around, even with medication.

His wife, Terry, is a registered nurse and didn’t know much about running a restaurant. She said she was pleased it would stay open and that her husband was happy to know the place he cared about so much would not go by the wayside.

“It was bittersweet for me,” she said of the sale.

Ron Minegar, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Cardinals, said the plan was to preserve the cachet of Tom’s while updating its look and menu. The goal is to keep the restaurant’s brand and tradition.

“There’s clearly a rich history with Tom’s Tavern,” he said. “It’s kind of a meeting spot for the city. We didn’t want to see a landmark like that go away. I’m glad it had the happy ending.”

Owner of downtown Phoenix’s Tom Tavern Dies

[Source: Phoenix Business Journal]


Long-time downtown restaurateur Michael Ratner passed away on Tuesday afternoon after a long battle with cancer.

The owner of Tom’s Tavern since 1982, Ratner led the operations of the restaurant that was long known as a place for politicians to meet and eat. The restaurant has served Phoenix customers for 80 years.

Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, said Ratner’s passing is a loss to the Valley’s business community.

Ratner had served for decades as a board member of the Arizona Restaurant Association and worked hard on behalf of other restaurateurs, Chucri said.

“Mike was a good example of what restaurateurs across the nation are all about. It’s hospitality. He was there every day greeting guests, talking to them, making sure they were happy and making sure they would come back. He thrived on that and that’s why customers kept coming back,” Chucri said.

Ratner also was a founding member of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership and served on its board for 20 years.

“He was truly passionate about downtown and he will be greatly missed,” said David Roderique, president and CEO of Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

Tom’s Tavern was opened in 1929 by Tom Higley in the old city morgue building, 136 W. Adams St. in downtown Phoenix. It changed hands a few times over the years and moved to its current location in the Renaissance Building, 2 N. Central Ave., in 1988. Ratner bought the business in 1992 from the Big 4, a business group made up of some Chicago natives.

During an interview with the Phoenix Business Journal about a year ago, Ratner said business was done a little differently in the Valley back then.

“I really bought this place on a handshake, and then the paperwork followed,” he said.

Services have yet to be announced, but friends are hoping to organize a gathering on Nov. 18 at the restaurant to celebrate his life, Roderique said

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Viewpoint: New growth, new promise for downtown Phoenix

[Source: Andrew Conlin, Special for The Republic] — For nearly two decades, we’ve heard confident predictions that downtown Phoenix was on the brink of a crucial “tipping point,” when public investment would no longer be needed to generate new development that was both vigorous and self-sustaining.  A term like “tipping point” is a kind of mental shorthand, useful in summarizing complex ideas but sometimes misleading when it comes to making decisions or drawing conclusions.

In reality, we won’t see the beginning of a significant shift from public to private investment until downtown achieves the requisite critical mass.  This will be the moment when the collective energy generated by the diverse collection of downtown businesses, retailers, residences, entertainment venues, and academic and cultural institutions fuses into the nucleus of an energetic and growing community.  Private investors will be drawn to this energy, creating new businesses and helping to further enrich the downtown scene.  This will inspire more people to live and work here, generating new opportunities that will draw new investors.  This development “chain reaction” will, we hope, be self-sustaining and transformational.  [Note: To read the full opinion piece and comments, click here.]