[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.”
A downtown Phoenix institution may be forced to close because of the owner’s battle with cancer.
“I’ve known for two years,” said Michael Ratner, owner of Tom’s Tavern. “But I’m hard headed and I didn’t want to give in to anything”
The cancer just compounds other problems for the tavern and other downtown businesses, from a bad economy, to a downtown that suffers after sunset, plus a lot of construction. But it’s the cancer that may push Ratner’s historic place over the edge.
Tom’s Tavern opened during the Great Depression, in 1929. It’s been a diner and pool hall ever since with Presidents and Princes coming by to grab a bite over the years. You can see the photographic proof around the restaurant. It’s also the kind of place that regular customers have name plackards on chairs around the place.
But owner Ratner can barely get around with a walker and he is in serious pain, making running the restaurant next to impossible. He hasn’t been able to be there in weeks.
“I have hope it will work out,” Ratner said with a tear. “I think the tradition of Tom’s can live on.”
After a summer hiatus, the next program in the Get Smart Breakfast Series will be on Wednesday, September 15th from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at Tom’s Restaurant and Tavern.
The program will feature presentations by Betsey Bayless, President and CEO of Maricopa Integrated Health System (MIHS), and Bil Bruno, MISH Board Member, speaking on “An Overview of Maricopa Integrated Health System – Your Public Health Care System.” RSVP if you are planning to attend.
[Source: Phoenix Business Journal] — The Downtown Phoenix Partnership will honor six downtown champions with its annual DREAMR awards Feb. 1. Honorees are for the Downtown Revitalization Effort Awards of Merit and Recognition are:
- Project/Program Award, Freeport-McMoRan Center, formerly One Central Park East, developed by Mesirow Financial
- Private Sector Individual Award, Mike Ratner, owner, Tom’s Tavern
- Public Sector Individual Award, Don Keuth, president, Phoenix Community Alliance
- Outstanding Organization Award, two-time WNBA champions, Phoenix Mercury
- Unsung Hero Award, recently retired city of Phoenix manager, Frank Fairbanks
- Visionary Award, Outgoing DPP Board Chair and Bryan Cave attorney Neil Irwin
The 16th Annual DREAMR Awards luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Phoenix Convention Center with an expo of products and services from central city merchants. For more information, call 602-254-8696 or visit DPP’s website. [Note: To read the full article, visit Downtown Phoenix DREAMRs chosen.]
The downtown Phoenix campuses of Arizona State University and the University of Arizona are sponsors of a “GET SMART” monthly breakfast series. This month’s featured speaker is Jaime Molera, founding partner of Molera Alvarez Group and co-chair of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Federal/State Relations Committee. Jaime will speak on “All Politics are Local: How the elections — from president to school boards — affect our world. A view from downtown Phoenix.”
- Date: Tuesday, September 23, 2008
- Time: 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.
- Place: Tom’s Tavern, 2 N. Central Ave. (northeast corner of 1st Ave & Washington)
- Cost: Free, breakfast additional
- RSVP: Sheila Maddox, 602-827-2007 or via e-mail
Join Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and members of the downtown business community to discuss emerging projects and initiatives in Downtown Phoenix. With the light rail construction wrapping up and cranes moving around each day, Mayor Gordon will share his vision of the “next steps” for downtown. Coffee will be provided.