Clubbing Wrigley

The Wrigley Mansion's owners want to open a private restaurant with $10 memberships. But its well-connected Biltmore neighbors want no part of cafe society.

Those insecurities notwithstanding, they are good at pulling strings to get their own way. Case in point: When a gullible Japanese investor named Kabuto Arizona Properties bought the Adobe Golf Course with the notion of building upscale houses on it, ABEVA was able to apply enough pressure on the city to put the brakes on the development. The outcome of that battle is pending.

Within ABEVA are various little villages. The one closest to the Wrigley Mansion is called Taliverde, and its homes are valued at more than $1 million each. Still, it was a stretch when Brian Zemp, ABEVA's attorney, referred to the Wrigley Mansion as just another house with a view in a letter to the city zoning authorities.

"I have been involved with the Wrigley Mansion one way or another since 1973, and frankly, people have never beaten down the doors to see what's inside," he wrote. Zemp had worked for previous Wrigley Mansion owners and had even had an office in the mansion. "It is an interesting house with a certain mystique, much of it contrived," he continued. "It is also large and has a great view. On the other hand, if the Hormels really wanted to satisfy the latent curiosity of an even greater number of Phoenicians, they would open up the McCune/Hall/Hormel Mansion to the public. Having been there in all of its incarnations, I can assure you that it is the more interesting attraction."

When ABEVA folk talk about the Wrigley Mansion, what most burns their Spam is the evening that James Bond himself stormed the grounds and shot it out with sinister spies. It happened in January 1996, but Tucker and other residents speak about it as if it happened last week, and the stench still lingers in the air.

A liquor manufacturer threw a wild party to fete the opening of a James Bond movie starring Pierce Brosnan. During the event, a helicopter hovered over the mansion--which is strictly forbidden by the use permit--and fired blanks.

"That was ludicrous," says Tucker. "There were helicopters circling there with searchlights, and there were guns going off.

"We had people getting their children down on the floor," she continues. They thought there was a shooting up there and those were the police and it happened late at night. The neighbors called 911."

Tucker told the Arizona Republic that the residents "thought they were getting shot at by police," which makes Celeste Nichols go apoplectic.

"Oh puhl-eeze," she says, dragging out the syllables as long as she can.
"What are those homeowners doing that they think the police are firing at them?" asks Jamie Hormel.

"We were totally out of line," she admits, "and a manager let [them] throw this big party, which would have been fine except they had a helicopter flying around shooting blanks."

The offending manager had been fired before the party even took place, but it was too late for the mansion to back out of the agreement to host the party.

"It's the only incident we've ever had. That's why that's all they can talk about. In six years, we only did one thing."

ABEVA's complaints about noise and parking and traffic problems, however, have more to do with the club's currently legitimate function as a banquet center.

Tucker told the Arizona Republic, "All of the traffic from that club empties out onto a residential street," which is only half true. The road to the club passes between commercial properties, but the residences in question lie well beyond the turnoff to the mansion.

The parking is insufficient, ABEVA says. There are 140 spaces at the mansion and more than 100 more down at the convention center.

The guests are noisy, Tucker says, and Wrigley revelers on their way to the Biltmore Hotel have awakened residents.

"Many of those people have been loud and have been boisterous," says Nancy Tucker. "They leave there at midnight and walk down the hill to the hotel and wake up the guests. That happened many times."

The Wrigley management claims that they get blamed for noise that really emanates from the hotel.

In an April letter to the city zoning department, Foster Mori, an attorney for the Hormels, wrote, "Recently a call was received from Mrs. Tucker representing ABEVA to complain about the noise of the outdoor activity in the Wrigley parking lot. Of course, ABEVA did not bother to try to verify the complaints. Wrigley investigated the matter and confirmed that the Wrigley had not had any such activities on the date complained about. It was then determined that the activities ABEVA was complaining about were originating from the Biltmore Hotel.

"As a further example of the hostility that ABEVA has demonstrated, there are the calls that are being made regularly to the mansion (anonymously). The most recent caller stated: 'You can't tell us what to do. We will tell you.'"

But the current debate is over a restaurant, which Nichols and the Hormels allege will change very little. Based on the prices on the menu, it's unlikely that it would either attract or accommodate unwashed hordes.

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