Arizona and Vestar, the owner of Desert Ridge Marketplace in North Phoenix as well as Tempe Marketplace in Tempe and a multitude of other lifestyle centers around not only Arizona but the West, have made history by changing legislation to allow shoppers the first ever “sip and stroll” opportunity in the state.
The Vestar owners had the idea for this concept and took it to legislature, which recently passed a bill allowing shoppers ages 21 and older the opportunity to purchase beer, wine or cocktails from pop-up bars located at The District Stage and the Barnes & Noble Courtyard, and stroll throughout the center with the beverage in hand. Construction is currently underway for a permanent bar/kiosk that will be called the Copper Cantina and will be operated by Copper Blues Live.
Copper Cantina is scheduled to open in January and will offer extended operating hours. Current hours for the sip and stroll are Fridays and Saturdays from 4:00 p.m. to 12 midnight (with last call at 11:30 p.m.) and Sunday from noon to 8:00 p.m. (with last call at 7:30 p.m.). Through the end of December, to promote the Sip and Stroll, guests will receive 10 percent off two rides to or from Desert Ridge Marketplace when using promo code SIPANDSTROLL with rideshare company Lyft.
To purchase alcoholic beverages, guests must present a valid driver’s license and be 21 years of age or older. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted outside of designated areas within The District. Once their age has been verified, customers will be given wrist bands to verify their eligibility and will be served in special plastic cups. Extra security is set to be provided, and patrons may enjoy their beverages in designated areas only — they are not allowed to take their drinks offsite or even into the parking lot.
While its centers continue to thrive in the ‘Age of Amazon’, Vestar has understood that energizing properties is key to their ongoing success; and that’s just how the idea to permit shoppers to stroll outdoors with a cocktail, beer or wine in hand came about. While permitted in certain gaming areas like Las Vegas, the concept has been banned in Arizona and almost every state, until now. “You can get a drink at a movie theater and walk around resorts and golf courses with a cocktail, so why not retail centers?” asked Vestar President David Larcher.
Larcher said the company did its homework, talked to state officials including the Arizona Department of Liquor, and eventually landed a bill dealing with liquor laws during the past session of the Arizona State Legislature. The bill was sponsored by State Representative Jeff Weninger and signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey several months ago. Larcher added that this program will help keep shopping centers relevant for people, saying, “Malls need to be destinations, and food, beverages, entertainment and art are all part of that.” He notes that since malls such as Desert Ridge Marketplace have been allowed to serve alcohol in enclosed areas for special events, he suggested making it a permanent situation.
The law allows certain retail properties that qualify to grant one of its existing bars or restaurants permission to serve alcohol outside of its establishment to a customer who then may stroll the grounds with an alcoholic beverage in hand. The plan, including security, must first be approved by the city in which the shopping center is located in, then by Director John Cocca of the Arizona Department of Liquor. The City of Phoenix and Director Cocca have approved the Desert Ridge Marketplace plan.
Desert Ridge Marketplace will be the first shopping center in the state to provide this new shopping experience along with Vestar’s Tempe Marketplace, which is also in the process of seeking approvals to offer the same amenity.
Copper Blues Live will be the only location at Desert Ridge Marketplace where customers can purchase alcohol and then stroll outdoors with the drink while enjoying movies, concerts, and various outdoor amenities. The popular restaurant, comedy spot and entertainment venue says they expect this change in the law will help business across the center.
“We appreciate Vestar’s leadership to help make this change possible. We think it will be great not only for our business but the eligible shopping centers seeking to innovate with new and different ways to bring people and keep them at their properties,” said Eric Bachkoff, Partner of Copper Blues Live. Vestar has long been known as a pioneer in new retail experiences from the design of the centers themselves, to the programming of up to 300 events a year on-site.
The HB 2281 calls for a three-year pilot program allowing the owner or manager of a regional shopping center to designate one restaurant or bar with a liquor license to apply for the extended service. So that the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control can easily track compliances or potential issues, only one restaurant or bar per mall can offer the extended service. The legislation allows patrons to “consume spiritous liquor throughout a designated pedestrian area,” according to the legislation, which was sponsored by Rep. Jeff Weninger (R-Chandler) and passed both legislative chambers by an overwhelming majority. The new law allows up to 10 malls to apply for the extended service. Only larger shopping centers with at least 400,000 square feet of retail space — the ones with more extensive pedestrian areas — are eligible.
While the experience was previously banned in many states, Larcher predicts common-area liquor sales could spread to other states based on Arizona’s experience and due to the fact that bringing in another element of entertainment and enjoyment will continue to keep up the demand for shopping malls, particularly since online shopping has become the preferred way to shop for many.
As we head into the season of shopping and celebration, it seems there is no better time to roll out this new concept, especially since in addition to Sip and Stroll, Desert Ridge Marketplace offers fun holiday events including nightly snowfall at 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. as well as holiday shows featuring local community groups all season long. Check the website at www.shopdesertridge.com for updates, as well as amendments to Sip and Stroll hours, and more.