Beer me!: 10 years of the Lost Leaf
For Tato Caraveo, event coordinator for The Lost Leaf (which just celebrated its 10 year anniversary at the 5th Street location), this week marks their perseverance and their survival as a local business that keeps on grindin’ in an ever changing landscape.
“It means that we continue to survive, that we’ve become a staple in the community,” Tato says.
The Lost Leaf originally opened in 2004 and they occupied the space where the Side Bar now operates. It was an art gallery/studio for Tato and also a bar. At the beginning, it was a dump. He and his partner Eric Dahl, also a local artist and musician, cleaned it up nice.
“The owner saw what we did to it, saw the potential. At the time, our rent was 300 bucks, but when the time came to renew the lease, the landlord told us the new rent was going to be $3,000, and we said no thanks and moved out,” he recalls.
By late 2005 they found the spot where it now sits. It took about two years to remodel it and get their liquor license and in May of 2007, The Lost Leaf was open for bidness.
Since then much has changed, some who were regulars have moved to other cities. With the flux of population to La Phoenikera, batches of newcomers have arrived and now they’ve become regulars.”But there’s a lot of randoms that recently heard about us or people that pass by and just walk in.”
The scenery has also changed. We now see a downtown that’s booming with apartment complexes, eateries, coffee joints, and all kinds of shops. Historical buildings are making way for progress, for ASU students and startup peeps.
Say what you may about gentrification and its impact on the community (some locals oppose it, others are indifferent and there are some who celebrate it), For Tato’s business, it means that rent is going up for everyone, even for the artists that made La Phoenikera attractive for investors.
Tato is no fan of gentrification, especially when it comes to bulldozing historical buildings that have murals on their walls. Luckily for some businesses on 5th Street, that’s not going to happen and there are talks about preserving the murals, because duh, that shit made it cool in the first place.
In order to preserve what make La Phoenikera dope, Tato believes there is a solution: if you’re a localist and want to “keep it Phoenix”, you need to buy property.
“You just need to invest in property. There’s so much bitching and complaining but at the end of the day somebody else owns the building and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he says. “Kind of what Beatrice Moore is doing on Grand Avenue, where she buys historical buildings and registers them as such to avoid them being torn down.”
The Lost Leaf is a staple in the community, it offers live music every day of the year (except those days that bands cancel). It has a massive selection of wine and craft beers and usually showcases local artists’ work. They charge zero commission when paintings are sold…it is an establishment run by artists and for artists.
The coolest thing about it though is the connections you make with people, the artists that DJ there like Byron, DJent, Sir Smeezy and other melomaniacs; the poets, painters and performers, the transients and their deliriums, and locals who just want to avoid anything formulaic and corporate.
Tato says that for the next few years the goal is to have a two-story bar and a kitchen to serve food; the patio would be open and bands would be playing constantly.
Let’s celebrate a bastion of La Phoenikera, a place where drunks, artists, locals (often times under the same category), and newcomers can chill, meet some legit people, try any of the hundreds of brewskies on their menu, and listen to good fuckin’ tunes. Cheers to another decade of rockin’ it and making La Phoenikera a little better; to showing that you don’t have to sell out to be a sustainable and community-driven business.