It may sound cliched, but it’s true, endings often lead to new beginnings.
Mark Howard co-owns Bliss ReBAR, a downtown Phoenix staple known for its breakfast and lunch, cocktails, and welcoming space often frequented by members of the LGBTQ community. The bar and restaurant are closed at the end of May.
Howard, along with his co-owners, did not want to close Bliss ReBAR, which had been open for more than a decade.
“We’ve been trying for a good six months, until April 2022, trying to get a long-term lease with the landlord,” he says. “We haven’t heard anything for several months and so we had to make a commercial decision because we couldn’t go offline.”
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’ve had an amazing 12 years and my partners are really proud of what we’ve built there. We’re sorry to see it go and we know it left a void,” he says.
He’s owned and operated several businesses in the past 30 years, but says he’s never had to shut down a successful business before.
“There were a lot of sad people when we closed Bliss ReBAR and they wanted us to get it moving, but you can’t recreate something special like that, and when you try to do it, you often don’t work out,” Howard says. “We prefer to make a great impression and be happy for those 12 years and the impression you have made on the community.”
And it is precisely this energetic spirit and collaboration that he hopes to create in his latest project, a community space in the Melrose area that he is developing with business partner, designer and architect Rocco Minagoal. Royale PHX will include retail stores, professional services, restaurants and a bar.
Howard says the goal is to make it a community gathering place that won’t be like a shopping mall, but something more integrated. It will be located on Glenrosa Street, in a former auto body shop.
“We wanted the tenants to be more symbiotic and synergistic with each other and allow for a variety of activities,” Howard says.
This project has been in progress since last year. Howard and Menaguale previously looked at several estates, but only recently came to the Melrose community.
“The idea that this development is a central part of the community means you have to have the support and participation of neighborhood associations that have historically been very active,” Howard says.
Both Howard and Minagoal worked hard early on to engage the city, as well as to secure the interest of the neighborhood association.
They hope to open the first phase of development in late 2022, with Window Coffee Bar, Stem Swag and Rocco Designs. Other tenants, specifically restaurants and bars, will open in February 2023.
Howard explains that the project’s vision includes cultivating a space that provides multiple services as well as creating a gathering place for public and private parties.
There are many phases of renovation to take place, as the new development will find its home in a converted parking garage with virtually no infrastructure. But this gave Howard and Minagual the opportunity to create a “mid-century modern gem in a contemporary time with a contemporary spin,” honoring the history of the Melrose area.
Ultimately, Howard envisions the property feeling a Miami Beach feel mixed with Las Vegas ingenuity and mid-century design in Phoenix.
“We want Royale PHX to be a part of the renewal and revitalization of this area,” Howard says.