Opening/Closing

Bliss ReBAR's Co-Owner Plans a New Restaurant, Coffee Shop, and Bar in Melrose

The first phase of the Royale PHX development is set to open in late 2022.
The first phase of the Royale PHX development is set to open in late 2022. Rocco Designs & Maura Gonzalez
It may sound like a cliché, but it's true, endings often lead to new beginnings.

Mark Howard co-owned Bliss ReBAR, a staple in downtown Phoenix known for its brunches, cocktails, and welcoming space often frequented by members of the LGBTQ community. The bar and restaurant closed at the end of May.

Howard, along with his co-owners, didn't want to close Bliss ReBAR, which had been open for more than a decade.

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Bliss ReBAR closed May 2022.
Melissa Fossum
"We tried for a good six months, up until April 2022, to try to get a long-term lease agreement with the landlord," he says. "We didn't hear anything for several months and so we had to make a business decision because we couldn't keep going with no communication."

He wanted to notify the staff and explained that he simply couldn't run a restaurant month-to-month without any kind of long-term lease. 

"It's unfortunate. We had a great 12-year run and my partners are really proud of what we created there. And we are sorry to see it go and know it has left a void," he says.

He's owned and operated several businesses in the past 30 years, but says he has never before had to close a successful business.

"There were so many sad people when we closed Bliss ReBAR and they wanted us to move it, but you can't recreate something special like that and when you try to do that, often times you don't succeed," Howard says. "We rather leave on a high note and be happy for those 12 years and the impression it left on the community."

And it's precisely this energetic spirit and collaboration he hopes to create at his newest venture, a Melrose District community space he's developing with business partner, designer, and architect Rocco Menaguale. Royale PHX will include retail shops, professional services, restaurants, and a bar.

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Designer Rocco Menaguale hopes to create a mid-century modern look for Royale PHX.
Rocco Designs & Maura Gonzalez
The goal is to make it a community gathering spot that won't be like a strip mall, but something more integrated, Howard says. It will be located on Glenrosa Avenue, in a former auto body shop.

"We wanted tenants that were more symbiotic and synergistic with each other and allowed for a variety of activities to take place," Howard says.

This project has been in the works since last year. Howard and Menaguale previously looked at several properties, but it wasn't until recently they landed in the Melrose community.

"The idea of this development being a central part of the community means you have to have the support of the neighborhood associations that are historically very active and involved," Howard says.

Both Howard and Menaguale worked hard early on to get the city engaged, as well as to secure the neighborhood association's interest.
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Howard wants Royale PHX to be a gathering spot for the community.
Rocco Designs & Maura Gonzalez
Their hope is to open phase one of the development in late 2022, with Window Coffee Bar, Stem Swag, and Rocco Designs. The other tenants, specifically restaurants and the bar, will open in February 2023.

Howard explains the vision for the project includes cultivating a space that provides multiple services as well as creating a gathering spot for the public and private parties.

There are several phases of renovation that need to take place, as the new development will find its home in converted car garages with almost no infrastructure. But this gave Howard and Menaguale the opportunity to create a "mid-century modern gem in a contemporary time with a contemporary spin," and pay homage to the history of the Melrose district.

Ultimately Howard envisions the property to have the feel of Miami Beach mixed with Las Vegas glitz and mid-century design in Phoenix.

"We want Royale PHX to be part of the renovation and re-energizing of this area," Howard says.
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Rudri Patel is a lawyer turned writer and editor. She is the co-editor of the online literary journal The Sunlight Press and on staff at Literary Mama.
Contact: Rudri Patel