The Lowdown on Last Exit's Situation

Loads of people were biding a fond farewell to Last Exit Bar & Grill in Tempe this past Saturday night at its sixth anniversary party.

As I reported last week, the affair was ostensibly the music venue's last hurrah before closing for good due to its co-owners Devin Schulte and Brannon Kleinlein deciding to get out of the bar business.

The pair got onstage during the party and thanked everyone in attendance for supporting their establishment over the past six years. Ryan Prier, guitarist for The Black Moods, told the audience during the band's set how much they dug playing at Last Exit. Toasts were raised, tears were (likely) shed, and everyone seemed to say their goodbyes to the place.

The funny thing, however, is that there's a chance that Last Exit may still live. And one of the people attempting the resuscitation is Jack Maverik.

While most people know the cat as the soundman at the bar (or as the former manager of now-defunct pop band The Loveblisters), he's hoping to add another job to his resume: co-owner of Last Exit.

In my previous posts on the situation (read them here and here), Kleinlein and Schulte had mentioned unnamed individuals who were attempting to purchase the bar. On Saturday night, however, they finally revealed one of the mystery men to be Maverick with Kleinlein announcing him as the "new owner" of Last Exit during his speech.

Maverick later told me that he decided to buy the venue earlier this year along with doorman Brad White (as well as a third partner Rick Southern) after Kleinlein and Schulte became burned out with running the joint over the past six years (they transformed it from an old dive called BJ's Meeting Place into Last Exit in 2003). The duo's multi-year lease expired at the end of March and they'd been looking for a buyer to continue running things. Apparently, Maverik and his buds fit the bill.

"I had been trying to book some up-and-coming local bands like Miniature Tigers and The Loveblisters and Brannon and Devin suggested I take things over," Maverik says.

Kleinlein and Schulte started the process of selling the business to Maverik and his partners, and up until last week it looked like Last Exit would live on. The soundman says they'd gotten "90 percent" through the process when they decided to notify Arizona Partners Retail Investment Group, the company that owns the Tempe strip mall housing Last Exit.

And that's where they reportedly hit a snag. Maverick claims that APM demanded on April 15 that they provide a year's rent in advance, to the tune of $40,000. He states that it's something of "an unusual request" for a landlord to make, and feels like APM possibly wanted Last Exit to close for good. (Leigh Brown, a spokesperson for Arizona Partners, declined to comment on the matter).

"Brannon, Devin, and I were so anxious to get this deal done, we didn't go through a broker or anything, we just plowed ahead," Maverick says. "We didn't foresee any of these problems, we felt, worst case scenario, we'd have to put the first and last month's rent down.

"We've been here for six years and have been really good tenants, so it's kinda unusual that [APM] would ask for that kind of cash."

The request put a damper on the deal, and it appeared (for all intents and purposes) that Last Exit would be closing at the end of April after all.

Maverik says he and his partners were able to pony up the money, however, and scheduled a meeting with APM yesterday afternoon to see if they can somehow secure a one-year lease and keep Last Exit alive. I attempted to reach Jack on Monday evening to learn the outcome of the meeting, but he hasn't returned my calls.

I've got my fingers crossed that no news is good news.

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