Fair Trade Cafe‘s Civic Space Park location served up its first alcoholic drinks Friday thanks to its newly acquired liquor license, which will allow both the cafe and park to provide guests with adult beverages.
The cafe received the license through the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department based on a staff-recommended approval during the February 22 City Council meeting. The permit will allow other organizations to purchase alcohol through Fair Trade for events in the A.E. England building, co-owner Michele Lavis-White said. This means organizations can go through the cafe to get alcohol instead of obtaining a special permit that can take time to receive.
Karen Williams, Parks and Recreation Department deputy director, spoke with different park stakeholders like ASU, the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA and the Westward Ho to consider the idea of a liquor license in the park about a year and a half ago.
“We think there are users of the A.E. England building who want alcohol,” said Williams.
She said the stakeholders did not disagree with the idea, so the city approached the cafe because it was already located in the park and had helped with community events. If the stakeholders had not approved of the idea, the city would not have proposed it to Fair Trade because “it’s a city park,” Williams said.
Some of the profit brought in through alcohol sales will go to the city, Lavis-White said. The amount isn’t set, but she said she is willing to split the profit evenly.
“I think it’s a creative way to bring money into the park,” she said.
The new license is not a money-making venture but an “adult addition” to the park. Money the city receives will be re-invested based on what the people are interested in, Williams said.
The city wanted alcohol available in the park for planned events and needed someone to manage it, she said. The Fair Trade Cafe staff was willing and open to education on serving alcohol.
Alcohol will not be sold every day in the cafe but will be available at managed events. Companies can purchase alcohol for events and Fair Trade staff will either serve drinks or offer an approved list of companies that can serve them, Lavis-White said.
Alcohol is not allowed throughout the whole park but is now allowed at the A.E. England building and its patio area, Williams said.
Williams is watchful of violations with city licenses, but she does not foresee any problems because the laws are restrictive and the city monitors alcohol closely. Any violation falls upon the management of the cafe, not the city.
The cafe served alcohol during the April’s First Friday event but only sold three drinks. The next night, during Queer Cultura — an event held for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Latinos — 10 to 15 drinks were sold.
“That’s the way I think it’s going to be,” Lavis-White said. “Our crowd comes during the day to get coffee or lunch, not to drink.”
Josue Bustos, an ASU social work student who attended Queer Cultura, said he does not drink alcoholic beverages and saw very few people drinking. He didn’t believe that alcohol was an important part of the evening.
Although the license allows for hard liquor, Lavis-White decided to serve beer and wine. All spirits are from small businesses and farms located in California and Washington.
The cafe normally uses locally grown products, but Lavis-White didn’t want to compete with the nearby Phoenix Public Market, which has a niche selling local beers and wines.
“You’re not going to see Bud Light or that other crap here for a number of reasons,” she said.
One reason for the selectivity is Fair Trade’s proximity to the ASU campus. The business is trying to bring in “more mature drinkers,” not ASU students.
“We’re going to be very responsible,” Lavis-White said.
The university didn’t have an issue with the license because it’s meant to benefit the park during managed events, said Patrick Panetta, associate director for University Real Estate Development.
He also said he does not see an impact on the downtown campus because events in the A.E. England building have served alcohol in the past with no issues. The new license is just a different way to serve alcohol, Panetta said.
An ASU graduate, Lavis-White said the cafe is nothing like the bars around the Tempe campus. She said she would not be surprised if students spend four years on the Downtown campus without knowing the cafe sells alcohol at events.
“I’m really hoping to see the professional crowd relax after work,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll draw people downtown for alcohol. Other businesses do that.”
Lavis-White said Fair Trade will remain a cafe most of the time, even with the license.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, we’re still the same cafe we were a few days ago,” she said.
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