A piece of Tempe history will be closing its doors forever. Rula Bula Irish Pub and Restaurant is being forced to leave its longtime home this June after having been a cornerstone on Mill Avenue for more than 20 years. The historic pub is one of the area’s few remaining live music venues, as well as the site of Tempe’s favorite St. Patrick’s Day event.
After the business successfully survived the coronavirus pandemic, the owner of Rula Bula was informed by the new out-of-state landlord, Wexford Developments of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, that he would not be given an opportunity to renew the lease. The pub owner stated that Rula Bula was well positioned to continue to thrive post-pandemic. The owner also found out the space was leased to someone else and he had to be out of the space by the end of June.
Rula Bula’s owner did request a 30-100 year lease for the historic saddlery shop pub to remain in the historic Andre Building which was built as a saddlery and harness shop in 1888. However, the landlord did not respond to his request. Rula Bula was built by Irish Craftsmen and made to last 100 years. The owner’s request is in keeping with that Irish tradition like the Guinness Brewery Dublin Ireland that has a 9,000 year lease.
Even after also surviving the 18-month long light rail construction and the pandemic, Rula Bula is now forced into a situation where they must shut their historic Mill Avenue doors for good.
“Despite the realities of our current situation, Rula Bula’s long term community involvement and consistency in providing quality food, beverage and service, in an authentic and enjoyable atmosphere, has allowed Rula Bula to take its place as the longest surviving independent restaurant on Mill Avenue,” said Rula Bula founder Steve Goumas.
The pub has launched a GoFundMe website to help raise funds for Rula Bula to assist in transitioning and aid the staff and the local community, including the homeless and veterans’ charities. The link to donate is gofundme.com/f/rulabula.
The pub’s founders and owners are grateful for the outpouring of community support for this local staple, as they work to keep Rula Bula active. 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 has become a popular community gathering place and has deep roots in Tempe and beyond. It has been a recipient of 40-plus awards including one from Trip Advisor with the Stellar recognition of being in the top three percent out of two million restaurants nationwide. Rula Bula has achieved the Great Guinness Award for achieving the brewing company’s notable standards. In fact, Rula Bula has been the number one Guinness account in Arizona for 20 years running. Rula Bula is also featured in The Iron Druid book series by best selling author Kevin Hearne, drawing fans from all over the US and abroad to Tempe to experience Rula Bula, Irish whiskey and “the best fish and chips on the planet”. Just stepping into the pub takes you to Ireland, from where they imported the actual bar, fixtures and furniture. The pub has also been recognized by the Historic Society of Carlow, Tempe’s sister city in Ireland.
Rula Bula also has a charitable connection to American hero and football great Pat Tillman. The pub was a favorite hangout of the late Tillman. Rula Bula has become the home of fundraisers for the Tillman Foundation including the annual Pints for Pat and the Pat’s Run. The Pat Tillman Foundation is positioned to do $80,000 in charitable sales from the Pint for Pat glassware. The Rula Bula community also rallies around veterans and first responders hosting numerous fundraisers for them.