J-Heads Sold to New Owners

The rumors are true: J-Heads is about to be under new ownership.

The long-running east Phoenix bar and punk rock institution is in the process of being sold by its current proprietor Tonya Copeland due to recent financial woes. The deal is expected to be completed by January.

And as for the identity of the new ownership, Copeland won't specifically identify them.

She's been hoping to keep the deal on the down-low, as per the wishes of the new owners, as well as a desire on her part to minimize negative reaction to the sale by local punks and longtime customers of J-Heads (which originally was known as Jugheads until Archie Comics threatened a lawsuit a few years back).

All she will say is that the new owners are "close friends" and members of the Valley local punk scene.

"We don't want it announced until the bar switches hands because there are a lot of hard feelings going around," she says.

J-Heads was opened in 1997 by Tonya's late husband Sid Copeland, who died from a heart attack in 2006 at the age of 33.

As former New Times music columnist Brendan Joel Kelley wrote after Sid's death, the bar owner was a generous and affable cat who became a much-beloved figure in the local scene. Countless local bands got booked to perform on J-Heads' tiny stage, regardless of their talent level. (Full disclosure: My one-time band Cancer of the Piss played several gigs at J-Heads from 2001-05).

Tonya decided "continue Sid's legacy" and keep J-Heads running following his death. She's been criticized for her management of the bar since then, however, including a good deal of criticism by the membership of now-defunct local message board

The bar also suffered from taxation issues and a downturn in business within the past year, as evidence by the following message being posted its MySpace page last month:

Save Jugheads!!!! We desperately need your help to save the bar. Behind in taxes and we would love to have you help us out. Donate anything that you can. Stop by with your donations and get your special gift!!!! Or donate online. Paypal button coming up in the next day or two. We need donations for the auction we are having on Dec 19th. We are auctioning some dope goods. Anything will help. Thanks for all of your support. VIVA SID!

Even though local punks are bound to be bummed by the sale, Copeland says that the new owners plan on (mostly) keeping things how they are, with the exception of the addition of an outdoor smoking patio or other minor improvements. (She's also staying on as a part-time bartender while attending nursing school).

"People are upset, people are hurt, I understand that. We've been here for 12 years, so of course people are going to be mad," she says. "But the bar is in good hands. [The new owners] are going to keep it as a music venue. They want everything in this bar to stay the way it is."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.