The Arizona Republic
Jun. 27, 2007 12:00 AM
Moving to an undisclosed location in downtown Phoenix, the swanky and intimate Chez Nous Cocktail Lounge closes this weekend with a farewell party.
The notoriously dark, 100-person club is relocating after more than 40 years at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Indian School Road, but owner Amina Uben isn't saying where she's moving until the paperwork is finalized, in about two weeks.
The current site will become home to an outpost of the British grocery chain Tesco.
Chez Nous' party starts at noon Saturday, with bands all day, T-shirt and memorabilia giveaways and drink specials. Uben says she doesn't want to pack any of the bar's stock: "We want to get it down to next to nothing."
Built in 1964 by Maureen and Andy Womack on top of a crumbling bar called Leo's Write Inn, Chez Nous started as a destination for elegant evenings and frequented by a power-broking crowd.
Maureen, now 79 and living in Scottsdale, says she was ahead of her time when she designed the club with velvet flocked wallpaper, deep, curving tuck-and-roll booths and softly glowing electric candles. She's proud so much of her work has remained untouched.
"Barely anything's changed at all - the bar, all the tables and the chairs, all that's almost 50 years old now," she says. "The only thing different was the ceiling; it's black now, but then I did it in gold."
And it's that sense of timelessness, soaked in soul, funk and R&B, that has gotten Chez Nous mentioned in publications such as Rolling Stone, Details, Chicago Tribune and Elle.
Ronda Hampton of Phoenix was a bartender at Chez Nous for 10 years, leaving recently to open the Ruby Room lounge downtown. "Whether people had just discovered it or had been coming for years, people just felt a home there," she says. "I knew one boy who took first dates there so that if she liked the place, he knew she was cool."
Litchfield Park attorney Jerry Thompson says he used to drive past the beige stucco building, thinking he'd never want to go into such a small, odd-looking dive.
"But one miserably hot afternoon, I stopped in and it was dark, it was cool and I was treated like a long-lost brother," he says. That was seven years ago, and since then he's been sipping Rolling Rocks at the bar, getting to know the after-work and late-night crowds that he describes as "a little dressy and there to dance."
Now it's a neighborhood cocktail lounge with a cubicle-size dance floor that attracts all ages, races and tax brackets. Second and third generations of lounge lizards belly up to the mirror-backed bar, drawn to its retro Rat Pack ambience and feeling of history in a city conspicuously devoid of such throwback charm.
It's the kind of place where 20-somethings come in to see for themselves the place grandma cheated on grandpa, according to Uben, or where married couples come to relive the night they met 22 years ago. Or even where one couple, after hosting their wedding reception at the bar, still drink together although they've been divorced for years.
"It's just that kind of place," says Uben, a resident of Phoenix.
Which is why, in 2001, driven by citizen protests and petitions, Phoenix blocked the land's owners from allowing an Osco to be built on the property. That's when Uben bought the place, leaving her career as a researcher for the state Senate to save her favorite hangout. But now, as the land's owners have inked another deal, Uben and her daughters have decided to find a permanent home for Chez Nous.
She says many of the people who spoke up to save the original location have volunteered to help with the move. She's got a team of about 15 friends of the bar helping her move, decorate the new location and put together a grand-opening party.
The new location will hold about 150 people, with a patio (possibly giving the cigarette girl her old job back) and a handful of improvements, such as a new "gorgeous" bar back and an upgrade of the lava rock waterfall so it actually works, Uben says.
But much else will stay the same, even down to the wallpaper. Uben and her contractors are figuring out a way to take it with them to the new location.
I know, I saw that this morning! That sucks; it won't be as good in a different location. I'm going to try to go on Saturday. Anyone else hitting it?
draft day and the Suns teased me with that failed KG deal...looks to be another season of fast play with no results.
Well at least they will be keeping a pick this year. Not all of them most likely, as they will vag out and trade a salary and first rounder in order to save money. The same Goddamn tightwad maneuver every year.
Last edited by luckyface; 06-28-2007 at 02:40 PM.
Agreed. It just felt more comfortable when the team was Jerry's kids.
A Chandler baby was in critical but stable condition after she was left in an SUV for nearly two hours Thursday afternoon when the temperature was approaching 110 degrees.
Police said the 3-month-old's father had taken her with him to run errands. But when he returned home around 3:15 p.m., police said, he went inside and forgot that the baby was in a car seat in the back of the car. Dispatchers were called after the father realized what had happened and removed the child from the vehicle.
Firefighters said the baby had a core body temperature of 109 degrees. She was rushed to Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa in very critical condition.
Police said the infant is one of five children and that other family members were home during the time the baby was in the car.
Chandler police detectives are investigating and it was unclear if charges would be filed against the father.
Jesus; I simply don't get how you can forget that your baby is in the car. That guy has five kids-you'd think he'd be used to having a kid or two with him all the time!
You know criticizing someone who's done something like that is really easy.
I know you've never fucked anything up, captncrazy, but for those of us who have made the occasional mistake, it's hard not to feel for the guy and what he's going to have to live with for the rest of his life.
I've fucked plenty of times. But I've managed to never be stupid enough to kill anyone.
Sorry, I have very little sympathy and tolerance for stupid people. There are warnings EVERY SUMMER about this. How can it not be on your mind? I can see getting out of the car and starting to walk off and then realizing it, but two hours? I feel sorry for the victim-the baby. And the mother. And the siblings. Is that bitchy? Yeah. But stupidity shouldn't be an excuse for a lack of responsibility.
Meh. I don't think I'm railing. It's angering to me that people disregard their kids like that. I get just as pissed when a little kid drowns and the parent is on the news saying "but I just left him for a second". Or when some dumb woman leaves her really little kids with a "boyfriend" that she's just met the week before and he ends up shaking one of them to death or molesting them.
BTW-I'm not advocating that he go to jail. It wouldn't do any good-I agree with you on this point. The fact that he'll have to live with this the rest of his life is punishment enough.