Last Exit Lives: Tempe Bar Remaining Open Despite Rumors to the Contrary

The scene outside of Last Exit Bar & Grill in Tempe.
The scene outside of Last Exit Bar & Grill in Tempe.

Local music fans can breathe a huge sigh of relief, as Tempe's Last Exit Bar & Grill will remain open past the end of April. While I've had almost a dozen people tell me in recent weeks that the Tempe live music venue will be closing, the bar's co-owner Brannon Kleinlein gave me the lowdown on the situation.

"It's going to stay open and things are going to continue at Last Exit," he says. "That's what's in store for the place, but it's all I can say right now."

Kleinlein declined to comment further on the situation, such as whether or not the bar has been sold to new owners or if he and co-owner Devin Schulte will remain in charge of things. He simply reiterated that the place will remain open "for the foreseeable future."

I briefly spoke with Kleinlein on the matter back in March, the 34-year-old informed me that they were considering putting Last Exit up for sale when the venue's lease expired at the beginning of this month and were "exploring other options for their lives" besides owning a bar. He was equally vague and tight-lipped back then, and didn't elaborate if and when they were going to be hanging up a "for sale" sign on the bar's front door.

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The pair opened Last Exit in April 2003 in a space previously occupied by defunct dive called BJ's Meeting Place. Over the past six years, they've transformed the establishment (which is tucked away in a strip mall at Southern Avenue and Priest Drive) into one of the best places to catch live music in Tempe in the post-Long Wong's era. Numerous Valley favorites have graced its stage in that time, ranging from Mill Avenue favorites like Stephen Ashbrook and Dead Hot Workshop to current local standouts Kinch and What Laura Says.

"We love this business and love live music," Kleinlein told me in March. "But we've reached a point where we're asking ourselves, 'Do we want to do this for another five years, or do we want something else?'"

I asked Kleinlein if their attitudes have changed any over the last few weeks, but he (again) declined to comment. What he did tell me is that they're pulling out all the stops for their sixth anniversary show on Saturday, April 25, which will feature performances by many of their "good buddies" and Last Exit favorites, including Vayden, The Black Moods, Strange Young Things, and Violet Wild. The show starts at 9 p.m. and admission is $10.

And make sure you stop by the bar tomorrow night for The Loveblisters' last hurrah. Kleinlein says openers Kinch and Let Go will have relatively short sets, thus giving the the 'Blisters the rest of the evening to give their final public performance. The music starts at 9 p.m. with a $5 cover.

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