Shade trees outside Hanny’s removed by restaurant, prompting city reaction

(Nikiana Medansky/DD)
Shade trees outside Hanny’s restaurant and bar were cut on Sept. 12, prompting a response by downtown community advocates. The city of Phoenix said it is talking with Hanny’s about the removal of the trees. (Nikiana Medansky/DD)

The mature shade trees outside of Hanny’s restaurant and bar, which once protected pedestrians from the sun and promoted sustainability, were removed on the morning of Sept. 12.

In the past few weeks, there have been heavy winds and record rainfall that caused flooding in parts of Phoenix and the surrounding Valley. Arizona’s summer storms often damage greenery. Hanny’s manager Miles Buckles said that is why the trees around the restaurant needed to be chopped.

Some of Hanny’s customers, like Phoenix resident Sean Sweat, are not pleased with the restaurant’s actions in dealing with the damaged trees.

In response to these unhappy customers, Buckles said he is not worried about it.

“It’s unfortunate, but they’ll understand what happened and they’ll get over it,” he said.

Sweat, a supply-chain engineer at Intel and community advocate, tweeted, “Today Hanny’s cut down the city-owned shade trees in front of them — and therefore just lost my business.”

The tweet had an attached photo of the fallen trees, with the branches and leaves scattered beside the green pots in which they were planted.

He discovered the trees when a friend posted a picture of the stumps on First Street. Later that day, when going to the gym, he saw them for himself.

“The downtown Phoenix community is pouring a lot of time, energy and money into trying to improve our downtown and make it truly urban,” Sweat said. “A definitional part of an urban environment is being a great place for pedestrians. A fundamental necessity of pedestrian environments is summer shade.”

The issue of walkability in Phoenix is partially dependent on shade. Without shade trees as protection from the blazing heat, few civilians want to roam the streets on hot summer days.

The city of Phoenix said that they are aware of the action by the restaurant, located on Adams and First streets.

“Our residents and visitors have been telling us that walkability is important,” said Sina Matthes, PIO for the city. “It is unfortunate that we lost the shade trees.”

After the shade trees were cut, Sweat posed the question of the legality of Hanny’s actions. He said he had previously heard that the restaurant had been thinking about chopping down the trees.

“It’s also my understanding that they had, in the past, applied to the city to cut those city-owned trees down, and the city told them no,” Sweat said. “So this very much looks like a very conscious destruction of public property.”

In response to Sweat’s query about the legality of the situation, Matthes said that the city does not have “an ordinance that prevents them from removing the trees.” Still, they are “working with Hanny’s to address the issue,” she said.

Some passionate downtown community advocates, such as Sweat, may have lost trust in Hanny’s for good.

“When Hanny’s chopped down some of the most mature shade trees that we have in downtown, that’s an insult to everything we’ve been striving for and literally sets us back years,” Sweat said. “Because obviously, trees take time to grow.”

Contact reporter at Nikiana.Medansky@asu.edu