The Case for Casey's

This may have been primarily for my benefit, although the ropes blocking access to the lawn were not, nor the speed bumps in the parking lot or any of the other olive branches Casey's owners have held out. In recent months, they've hired laborers to pick up cigarette butts and beer bottles every Saturday and Sunday morning for two blocks in every direction, which includes Ash Court. Owners have ordered bartenders and servers to cut people off more quickly.

Also, customers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are now forced to leave through the side patio instead of directly onto Ash Avenue, an effort to discourage foot traffic in the neighborhood.

Rutledge admits the tactic is not even close to fail-safe, but points out that anyone who moves to the Maple-Ash area has to know they're moving close to a popular bar, and all the noise that comes with it.

"You don't move into a house next to a golf course and not expect the occasional ball through your window," he says.

"I'm jumping through more hoops than most trained circus animals to try and be a good neighbor," Rutledge says. "So far, the only result is [Tseffos] is still against us, and this place isn't as much fun as it used to be."

Business is down 20 percent over last year, he says. "We're not doing so well."

Rutledge says he has met with Tseffos, who he calls "a little Napoleon," and that the developer has given him a simple choice: Agree to close down the bar every night at 11 p.m., or get shut down, permanently.

"He doesn't seem to doubt he can hurt us," Rutledge says. "I'm starting not to doubt it, too."

People who have been to Tseffos' house say he has a scale model of the Maple-Ash neighborhood as it would appear under his master plan. They say it shows most of the neighborhood's northern end rezoned for retail use and high-density housing like Ash Court. The Casey Moore's house is still there, but the parking lot has become a housing development.

Before I moved out of Tempe in early August, I noticed that madness seemed to have been loosed on the Valley's college town, the kind that convinces people to lay the character of Tempe across the altar of progress and hack away at its heart.

This madness has raised rents on Mill Avenue so high even McDonald's couldn't last long without a drive-through window. It has induced the city to spend $100 million on the Tempe Town Lake, and to pave over the last block of grass on Mill Avenue so developers could replace it with a Gap, an Abercrombie & Fitch, and a P.F. Chang's.

Judging by Ash Court, Tseffos suffers severely from the madness. Hopefully, it has not spread so far as to make inevitable the destruction of Tempe's greatest neighborhood, or its greatest neighborhood bar.

Contact David Holthouse at his online address: dholthouse@newtimes.com

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