By Kathryn M. Miller
From a canal-side dance pavilion, The Arbor, to a theater and any number of clubs and restaurants, since 1918 there have been nearly 30 eating, drinking and entertaining establishments on the acre-size wedge of land where Central Avenue meets the Arizona Canal, according to Phoenix historian Ed Dobbins. And at a May 5 neighborhood meeting, the current property owners and new tenant of the building at the “top of Central” laid out their plans for the next incarnation of the iconic location.
Most recently Spoke & Wheel, a bicycle-friendly tavern that closed in July 2021, the wheels are in motion to turn the building at 8525 N. Central Ave. into the newest Little O’s location. A concept of O.H.S.O. Brewery and Eatery, Little O’s is a neighborhood restaurant with marketplace and take-out services.
The restaurant aspect of the concept provides a simple menu, on-premises indoor and outdoor dining and accommodations for take-out services. The marketplace will sell retail items, such as T-shirts, hats, etc., and, it is hoped, to-go wine and beer.
The property owners are requesting a text amendment to the Historic Canal-Side Restaurant Overlay District to allow the packaged liquor retail sales (beer and wine only) and marketplace.
Currently, the restaurant has 2,726 square feet of floor area, which includes the bar, dedicated to interior dining, and 1,877 square feet of outdoor patio dining. Little O’s is proposing to reconfigure the interior of the existing building to reduce the interior floor dining area to 1,986 square feet. The remainder of the unused interior dining area will be incorporated into the marketplace and take-out pickup area.
The entrance facing Central Avenue would also undergo a facelift under the proposal, with a new, branded look and an additional entry/exit on the south side to allow for take-out service. The canal-side screen wall will be removed, opening the patio up to a newly landscaped area to take advantage of the location’s proximity to the Arizona Canal Trail.
At the May 5 meeting, neighbors in attendance were largely receptive to the Little O’s concept, and Brian Roehrich, who was in attendance representing O.H.S.O., addressed neighbors’ concerns about parking and other issues, saying that he and the management team will be engaged with the neighborhood and responsive to their needs and concerns throughout the process.
Roehrich stated that the company has a 15-year lease and will invest roughly a million-and-a-half dollars into the property, so they want to make sure that the neighborhood is happy with what they are doing.
The next hurdle for the owners is to present their proposal to the North Mountain Village Planning Committee, likely in June, then, assuming approval at a subsequent July Village Planning meeting, the project will go to the Planning Commission and on to City Council for final approval.
To learn more about the project, visit www.littleosnorthcentral.com.