The Case for Casey's

One of the occupied houses -- Ash Court One -- belongs to Dan Durrenberger, vice president of the public relations firm that recently helped a group of citizens drive a Wal-Mart out of Chandler.

Durrenberger's also a good friend to Steve Tseffos, and another business partner. Tseffos bought Durrenberger's old house as part of the deal for Ash Court One. Working the media is a key tool of Durrenberger's trade, and one he recently employed to Tseffos' advantage in the August 6 edition of the Arizona Republic's Tempe community section, where Durrenberger's picture and name appeared above a column that smeared Casey's. It was headlined: "Tempe tavern has sprung a leak, neighbors contend."

In it, Durrenberger said the Maple-Ash neighborhood has become "a victim of the bar's runaway success."

Casey Moore's co-owner Gavin Rutledge, with exit signs.
Paolo Vescia
Casey Moore's co-owner Gavin Rutledge, with exit signs.

"There is something about the telephone poles along Ash Avenue that induces spontaneous urination among Casey Moore's clientele," Durrenberger wrote. "Personal observation reveals they routinely mistake these poles for toilets."

He went on to say that unnamed residents in the Maple-Ash neighborhood are demanding that Casey's voluntarily cut back its business.

"What neighbors want is restraint. They want a fundamental change in attitude. They want Casey Moore's to operate responsibly. They want patrons to stop urinating in front yards. They want them to stop throwing bottles on the sidewalks. They want harassing cat calls to stop."

Durrenberger failed to detail who these neighbors were or give an estimate of their numbers.

"There are other elements to this melodrama," he continued. "The internal intrigue that brought the bar to the attention of state liquor officials. The prospect of fines for liquor violations. These and other loose ends are best left for a future column."

Durrenberger's piece closed with a direct threat to David Arkules, one of Casey's three owners: "Arkules should mend his bar's ways. Because in the long run, success will provide little immunity from the array of forces being meticulously assembled to solve his problems for him."

Durrenberger obviously considers himself one of those forces. The common wisdom around Casey Moore's is that it may be Durrenberger's mouth moving, but it's Steve Tseffos' hand up his ass that's manning the controls.

Durrenberger described the Maple-Ash area as "a quiet neighborhood." Granted, that's a relative judgment. But this much is objective fact: Walk around that 'hood on a weekend afternoon and it often sounds like there's a live band practicing in at least one house every two blocks.

Furthermore, the Maple-Ash area is famous as a place to party hop from house to house, and for good reason. Durrenberger blaming Casey's for beer bottles in front of his house on Sunday morning is outrageous, when they could have easily been discarded by a posse of revelers making their way from one house party to the next.

But then how the hell should Durrenberger know? He only moved to the neighborhood in July, and he lives in Ash Court One, which is like stamping "Dork" on your forehead. (Tseffos has lived on Maple Avenue for many years.)

As to the accusation in Durrenberger's column that Casey's is run irresponsibly, it's worth noting that the bar has been cited for just two liquor-law violations in the last five years -- once for selling liquor on credit, and once for allowing an intoxicated person to remain on the premises.

By comparison, Tseffos and Carey used to own a frat-boy bar near ASU called the Dash Inn, which racked up 17 violations in half as much time, until the state forced them to sell the bar.

Casey's got busted the second time (the one for allowing a drunk person to remain inside the bar) the night of July 29, when an undercover agent cited the bar for serving a beer to a man the investigator said was clearly intoxicated. He turned out to be a state treasury department employee out with friends for his bachelor party.

Gavin Rutledge, co-owner of Casey Moore's, admits the man was drunk, and shouldn't have been served a beer. He says he had no problem paying the $500 fine. But he fears that, just as Durrenberger alluded to in his column, Tseffos is meticulously maneuvering behind the scenes to make the bar a target for selective enforcement.

"This is not about beer bottles," says Rutledge. "It's about Casey Moore's not fitting into the vision a developer has for this neighborhood. Unfortunately for us, it's a developer with a lot of political power, who can make our life harder with a few phone calls."

Rutledge says that soon after construction began on Ash Court last May, Tseffos began to complain about the bar to city officials. Three months ago, zoning officers informed Casey's owners that an addition to the bar's side patio appears to violate an ordinance by a few hundred square feet, and will have to be reviewed.

A recent Thursday night found Rutledge answering questions as he furiously wiped serving trays to accommodate the jostling-room-only crowd. There were another 100 people outside, and Rutledge continued an interview as he walked the bar's perimeter. He chastised the three bouncers at the bar's entrance to move imbibers farther back into the bar's brick courtyard, away from the street.

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