Why a beloved Phoenix art bar is for sale again: ‘I’m just so deflated’

The Lost Leaf is back on the market.The 1920s bungalow just south of Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix has been closed since early June.At the time, David Cameron, the real estate investor who purchased the art bar and live music venue in March 2022, told The Arizona Republic he planned to be open in time for this July’s First Friday art walk, saying the bar would be “closed for a few weeks for maintenance and business restructuring.”That plan has changed since then.Cameron listed the Lost Leaf for sale at ArizonaRestaurantSales.com on Friday, June 30.”My list price is $195,000 or best offer,” Cameron says.”At the end of the day, I encourage anybody to make an offer that has the legitimate ability to close the transaction. And my request is that that person not change what this place is because I love this place.”Why the Lost Leaf bar in Phoenix is being sold againThe decision to sell was based on several factors, some which Cameron says are personal.”I don’t know if I possess the energy to do this anymore,” he says. “I have a lot of things on my plate. This place is important to me, but based on current situations that are existing for me, I think it’s probably best if I just pack up and go on my way.”One major factor in Cameron’s decision is the Lost Leaf hasn’t done the sort of business he expected it to do.”I’ve never really seen a significant amount of community involvement in the patronization of this establishment,” he says.”When we bought it, we did see a massive decline, whether that’s people didn’t agree with or understand what we were trying to accomplish, or didn’t appreciate our intent initially or just didn’t like us. But we definitely lost a large amount of our clientele in those initial months.”‘The end of an era’:How an art bar that holds 50 people came to mean so much to PhoenixThe plan was to expand the Lost Leaf into the adjoining propertiesThe original goal when he purchased the business, Cameron says, was to expand the Lost Leaf.”You can see the evidence of me attempting to expand the patio and get live music and alcohol consumption on the neighboring property,” he says.”We did perform quite a bit of due diligence up front but what we found in the process of trying to expand is that the front house that housed a tattoo shop, a nacho bar and all these other commercial enterprises, those businesses were not operating up to commercial code.”Had he been able to proceed as planned, he says, he would’ve stuck it out.”I’m just so deflated from the outcome of what took place,” he says.”The amount of money and energy and time I spent in this location to try to expand this business into something bigger, so that I could then go get my Series 6 liquor license and justify the spending of what is today an astronomical amount of money. It’s $256,000 just for a license.”Don’t miss out:Top Phoenix concerts in July 2023: Morgan Wallen, Kelsea Ballerini, Peso Pluma, NickelbackInsurance issues, and Lost Leaf’s ‘fractured’ relationship with a landlordCameron had been leasing the neighboring properties from his landlord.”That kind of fractured our relationship,” he says.The Republic has reached out to the Lost Leaf’s landlord and several former employees for comment.In late May, Cameron’s insurance company came back from an inspection of the property with a list of issues that would need to be resolved to keep the policy.After all that, Cameron says, “I just don’t have any more steam inside of me. I fought this fight for a while here, both with the landlord and with trying to get the people to come in, but it’s very difficult.”Why Char’s Has the Blues is temporarily closedThe Lost Leaf is one of two iconic music venues Cameron purchased and reopened in the Valley.The other is Char’s Has the Blues, the legendary Melrose District blues and R&B club he reopened as Char’s Live in February 2022.Char’s Live is currently closed as well, but Cameron says that’s just a temporary situation.”It’s closed for construction,” he says.”I spent a ton of money remodeling that whole thing. I redid everything right. But there was a flooring defect that started to cause issues that were noticeable to where it was a liability. It could have been a trip and fall. So I shut it down and when we went to look at it, it was a bigger problem.”He said he has a contractor redoing all the floors.How Char’s got the Blues:The story of a legendary Phoenix nightclub, now called Chars LiveLost Leaf ‘is an iconic music venue’As for the Lost Leaf, Cameron’s hope is to find a buyer or group of buyers that will see the charm and possibilities that made him want to buy it in the first place.”It’s a cool old house,” he says. “Any buyer could see the value of this business and the fact that it’s not a lot of money, what I’m asking for it.”It’s also Cameron’s hope that those new owners keep it running in the spirit that made it a cherished part of Phoenix culture.The Lost Leaf was originally opened in 2006 by former owners Eric Dahl and Tato Caraveo when they moved their gallery into the bungalow from its original home above Emerald Lounge on Seventh Avenue and McDowell Road in Phoenix.By the time Dahl sold the Lost Leaf, it was a beloved haven for the city’s art and music scenes.When Cameron reopened the Lost Leaf, he told The Republic the goal was to make the business more successful than it had been.”I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of my time and energy and financial resources to try to keep this afloat, ” Cameron says.”This business doesn’t make a lot of money, or wasn’t in the way that I was running it. But then again, maybe I wasn’t the best suited to run this. I’m OK with that. I’m OK with me being the guy that stopped it from closing and kept it alive. Because this is an iconic music venue. There’s no reason why this should close. Even though I’m not born-on-this-soil Phoenician, I’ve been living here for eight years, and I don’t want culture like this to not exist.”Big Yellow Taxi:How Taylor Swift’s ‘dreamy’ influence inspired this Arizona-born Joni Mitchell coverReach the reporter at ed.masley@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

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