There's a groundswell of local backing for 23 West, as evidenced by the cadre of Valley musicians and promoters in attendance at city of Tempe hearing this past Tuesday where Hu was granted a six month conditional use permit for the venue. Some of the notable names in attendance included Modified's Ami Johnson and fiancé Matthew Reveles, Flathead bassist Alex Otto, Luckyman's Will Anderson, Indie Music Phoenix creator Shane Matsumoto, and Dry River Yacht Club vocalist Garnet. (Hu's also partnering with the folks from the Mantooth Group to book plenty of bands after 23 West opens sometime before the end of the year.)
"I want to do a safe all ages venue that doesn't serve alcohol that can support music for all ages and doesn't have to have roped-off areas where everybody feels like they are segregated," he says. "There should be one on this side of town and there isn't. Everybody should be able to come in there, have a good time, feel safe, and listen to some good music."
At the same time, there were also a number of detractors at the meeting who don't want the venue to open, including the owners of a few nearby businesses. Hu claims both Samir Mirza, proprietor of Byblos Mediterranean Restaurant, and Chris Cervantes, who runs adjacent Mexican joint Cervantes Restaurant, are in opposition to 23 West due to such concerns as increased foot and vehicle traffic, potential parking conflicts, or a possible increase in criminal activity. (New Times was unable to reach either party for comment).
While Hu says he's gotten support from some of his neighbors, he doesn't quite understand the naysayers' point of view.
"Some of these business owners are probably a little old school and just don't understand what I am trying to do. In my mind, when you're trying to enhance business in an area, you have to bring energy and foot traffic there. So how is that a negative thing?" he says. "As far as parking, let's be honest here, Danelle Plaza is a concrete jungle of parking spaces. There are so many spaces that are never ever used. [It's an issue] they're making up in their heads."
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When it comes to crime concerns, Hu refutes the impression that Danelle Plaza is a hotbed of illegal activity. Said perception was a major issue when he was denied a use permit for 23 West by the city last year. Officials from the Tempe Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit cited the fact there were more than 200 service calls to the plaza in 2007, which was a deciding factor.
He was prepared this time around, however, armed with facts and figures that helped trump the impression that an all-ages venue would result in an increase of crime. The protests of nearby business owners, however, necessitated the provisional status of 23 West's use permit, which will have to be reviewed by city officials every six months. Hu must also meet 14 different conditions prior to opening, such as ending all shows by midnight, submitting a security plan to Tempe P.D., and making sure patrons park in the proper spots.
t's not the only potential obstacle in his path, as Hu figures he might lose money running 23 West after it opens due to it being an alcohol-free establishment.
"It's gonna put me back a little bit, but I can say that I at least tried. It's one of those regrets that I know I'll have in my life that if I don't make an all out effort to do it. I'm not the smartest businessman in town but I at least want to try it," he says.