Social Hall Has It All

Share This
Photography by Angelina Aragon
Photography by Angelina Aragon

A beer-soaked rumpus room becomes an upscale gastropub in the debut of our new restaurant-design page.

Seattle homeboy Mike Kenney had no idea what he was getting into when he bought the crumbling, barnlike building in Tempe that once housed Minder Binders, an iconic college hangout famed for its kitschy memorabilia and tales of rowdy, beer-fueled abandon. Looking to revive the property, Kenney ran headlong into a thick barricade of dust, cigarette butts and peanut shells. So he scrapped the revival idea and started fresh, creating a quieter, cleaner, more upscale bar and restaurant that might appeal to college people who were decidedly not frat boys. “[I just] ripped off the Band-Aid,” he says. Among the property’s many upgrades: the upstairs “rafter room,” where cocktails, dinner and live music are offered on Friday and Saturday nights.

1. Eliminating clutter

Pre-rehab, the upstairs looked like an aging movie mogul’s attic. Crammed with canoes, wagons, Santa’s sleigh, a 14-foot statue of a Roman gladiator and the skeleton of a 19th-century Inuit whaling boat, the space was cleared out following a rummage sale in late 2017.

2. High-ceiling haven

The 27-foot tall raftered ceiling reflects the bones of the original barnlike building – and helps guide the new restaurant’s upscale rustic décor. Kenney also exploited the high ceiling to install a digital projector for movies, shows and events.

3. Distressed walls

Designer Camila Gibbs from L.A.’s Sawyer Design Company created the distressed plaster walls, which give the room a weathered, textured look and invoke an intimate, old-world aesthetic.

4. Salvaged Lights

Gibbs also scored a slew of antique lights formerly used in voting booths. She used them to create a retro-modern wall fixture that dimly glows above the bar, bathing the space in a mellow, cathedral-like glow.

5. Barrel-aged cocktails

What communicates “upscale farmhouse” more clearly than “barrel-aged cocktails”? Vanilla bean-scented Boulevardiers, Bee’s Knees with house-made berry bitters and reposado tequila Old-Fashioneds with chocolate bitters prove the cocktail program rocks.

Social Hall

715 S. McClintock Dr., Tempe
480-747-3851, azsocialhall.com

For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.