Reviving Mill Avenue: Restaurateur Julian Wright Set to Transform Tempe Nightlife with Two New Spots

Colton CagleNovember 16, 2023
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Rendering of Idle Hands
Rendering of Idle Hands

Mill Avenue, Tempe’s long-time nightlife hub, is about to receive a stylish upgrade this January when Valley industry vet Julian Wright (Pedal Haus, Luckys Indoor Outdoor) introduces two new concepts. 

Wright is launching two cocktail lounges, Devil’s Hideaway and Idle Hands, which will mark a new era for not only Wright, but Tempe’s food and beverage scene as a whole.

According to Wright, both establishments were the brainchild of restaurant designer Wesley James, renowned for his ability to craft “transportive, cool, and vibey” hospitality experiences. He adds that Devil’s Hideaway aims to immerse patrons in the charm of an “old-world European motif,” where they will be surrounded by floor-to-ceiling brick, arched walls and ceilings and a “dark and cozy” ambiance adorned with artwork. The main bar is the focal point, and the outdoor patio offers “an elevated deck, funky seating and a stage for live music,” creating a casual and unique atmosphere that is unparalleled in Arizona.

Connected through Devil’s Hideaway, Idle Hands presents a distinct cocktail experience of its own. It continues the old-world vibe, complete with a “mapped wall with subtle video projections,” potentially depicting urban or wilderness landscapes. The space will also boast decorative metal over the marble bar top, custom tufted booths and elegant chairs. Idle Hands’ cocktail program will have an equally elevated and exclusive feel. 

Wright signed the lease for the building four years ago, before the concept of the new establishments took shape. The space was previously home to the long-standing Irish pub Rula Bula. The bar’s building and expansive back patio significantly influenced Wright’s decision to take over the space. He envisioned bringing the lively spirit of his Downtown Phoenix bar, Luckys Indoor Outdoor, to Tempe. Wright says live music and late-night happy hours will differentiate it from Mill Avenue’s many nightclubs. 

Tempe holds a special place in Wright’s heart. He says the city provides “walkable areas, beautiful scenery and a lot of cool events,” overall “offering a great lifestyle,” giving the impression that Tempe is not just a city, but a community. “After a lot of legacy establishments have closed, Tempe is very viable for independent and hip restaurants or bars,” he says. Traditionally known as a party hub, a sophisticated cocktail concept could bring a touch of refinement to this vibrant area as Wright plans to create an “elevated yet approachable” atmosphere. Devil’s Hideaway and Idle Hands could represent a new era for this historic district. 

As for the future of the food and beverage industry in the greater Phoenix area, Wright envisions the emergence of more “eclectic and independent operators,” mirroring trends seen in places like California, New York and Oregon. He hopes to see the industry continue to evolve, driven by passionate owners who put their personalities into their establishments.

As Tempe changes and grows, Wright’s and James’ visions are set to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the food and beverage scene of this beloved district. Wright concludes that Devil’s Hideaway and Idle Hands are “the first domino to fall in bringing Mill Avenue back to its glory days of unique, varied and independent dining and cocktail experiences.”