It’s no longer illegal to wander around outside with an alcoholic drink — at certain malls, that is.
In May 2022, a new Arizona law
made it legal for adults age 21 and over to buy drinks “to go” from bars at outdoor shopping malls, provided they’re consumed on the property.
The law began as a pilot program in 2019, spearheaded by national mall kingpin Vestar, which owns 18 open-air shopping centers in Arizona, and officially launched on January 12. It’s now in effect at two locations so far.
To kick off Sip & Stroll on January 12, Tempe Marketplace offered free mini golf for four nights.
“From Vestar’s perspective, the two properties we feel work best for our portfolio are Desert Ridge Marketplace and Tempe Marketplace,” says Rachel Forman, vice president of marketing for Vestar.
Forman didn’t know of any other mall operators planning to participate, which involves submitting paperwork with state and local agencies for approval. Also, malls must be 400,000 square feet or more with large pedestrian areas.
The pilot program began at Copper Blues Live at Desert Ridge Marketplace, which was a big success throughout the early pandemic because it allowed people to drink without sitting in a crowded bar.
“It created an amenity that wasn’t available at any other shopping center in Arizona,” Forman says. However, she adds, “It was not as robust of a program. It was only one tenant and an outdoor bar,” and it only operated during special events and key times.
She explains that the new law lets more mall tenants participate in the program, which Vestar is calling Sip & Stroll.
“With the permanent legislation, it allows for the drinks to be served within the premises and taken out of the premises,” Forman says.
The courtyard outside Dave & Buster's has a big screen and hosts live music and events.
Hours are noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, proving once again, it’s five o’clock somewhere.
Desert Ridge now has six bars and restaurants slinging drinks to go: Copper Blues Live, Dave & Buster’s, Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, Whining Pig Beer & Wine Bar, Spitz Mediterranean, and Sid’s Garage.
Tempe Marketplace has five: Harkins Theatres, Dave & Buster’s, Gen Korean BBQ, Genghis Grill, and Kabuki Japanese Restaurant. Additional restaurants can join anytime, but they need to go through the application process, Forman notes.
So how does this work in practice? A visit to Tempe Marketplace the day after the new law went into effect revealed few people partaking, but also little to no hassle.
Businesses participating in Sip & Stroll must use logo cups or bags for takeout booze.
Patrons go into a participating business, order a drink at the bar, show their ID, get a wristband, buy a drink served in a cup or a bag showing the bar or restaurant’s logo, and walk out with it. It's important to note that the law allows beverages to be consumed in common areas only and not in stores, so don’t try to sip and shop.
Carmine DiPiero of Tempe tried out Sip & Stroll by getting a gin and tonic at Dave & Buster’s.
“I think it’s cool,” he says. “There’s not too many places in Arizona that you can walk and drink.”
That’s true nationwide as well, with few exceptions such as New Orleans and Las Vegas. A similar law for malls is in the works in Virginia and is already in effect there at open-air events like farmers' markets and art walks.
Signs at Tempe Marketplace clearly mark the boundaries of the Sip & Stroll program, which allows people to drink alcohol outdoors at some malls.
Forman says there were “no concerns” during the pilot program with bad behavior. “We’ll be monitoring the program quite closely, working in partnership with the tenants,” she says. “Obviously, there’s a security protocol we’re following as well.”
The mall tenants — even the non-food service retailers — are excited about Sip & Stroll, Forman says, because it keeps people at the properties longer and more engaged. Vestar hosts more than 600 events a year at the two participating malls, and this will allow people to have a drink while enjoying a concert, mini golf, and other activities including a Super Bowl tailgate party at both properties starting at 3 p.m. on February 12. For upcoming events, visit the calendars for Desert Ridge
Carmine DiPiero of Tempe enjoyed a gin and tonic on January 13, the second day the law went into effect allowing drinking at outdoor shopping malls of a certain size.
“We just went through a renovation of Tempe Marketplace, so there are wonderful seating areas” with outdoor fireplaces and big screens, Forman notes. This also makes it possible to get a beer or wine from one place and pair it with a slice of pizza, pita wrap, or salad from a different purveyor.
Cade Cummings, a bartender at Genghis Grill, says about 15 people took advantage of the takeout drinks on the first day during his shift, and “they’ve been more generous” in terms of tips and in their willingness to interact, which he enjoys. He notes that margaritas were one of the most popular requests.
Jerry Shin, general manager of Kabuki, says right now, any drink can be made to go, but it may change as demand increases. “We’ll open the widest selection to the guests, and in a month or two, narrow it down,” he notes. “In my opinion, it’ll get a pretty good response down the road."