No need to sneak around anymore. Shoppers can now legally drink alcohol and walk through Valley shopping centers.

What started out as an idea at Vestar, the owners of Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix, Tempe Marketplace in Tempe and numerous other lifestyle centers throughout Arizona and the West, turned into state legislation and is now a reality. 

Starting this weekend, shoppers, 21 and older may purchase beer, wine or cocktails from a mobile bar stationed outside of Copper Blues Live and stroll throughout the center with the beverage in hand. 

The hours of operation going into effect this weekend will be Friday 4 pm – 12 am, Saturday 12 pm – 12 am and Sunday 12 pm – 7 pm. Construction is underway for a permanent bar/kiosk that will be called the Copper Cantina and operated by Copper Blues Live. It is expected to open in January and have extended operating hours.

While its centers continue to thrive in the ‘Age of Amazon’, Vestar has understood that energizing properties is key to their ongoing success. And that’s just how the idea to permit shoppers to stroll outdoors with a cocktail, beer or wine in hand came to be. 

While permitted in certain gaming areas like Las Vegas, the concept has been banned in Arizona and almost every state, until now. 

“You can get a drink at a movie theater and walk around resorts and golf courses with a cocktail, so why not retail centers?” asked Vestar President David Larcher.

Larcher said the company did its homework, talked to state officials including the Arizona Department of Liquor, and eventually landed a bill dealing with liquor laws during the past session of the Arizona State Legislature. The bill was sponsored by State Representative Jeff Weninger and signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey several months ago.

The law allows certain retail properties that qualify to grant one of its existing bars or restaurants permission to serve alcohol outside of its establishment to a customer who then may stroll the grounds with an alcoholic beverage in hand. The plan, including security, must first be approved by the city in which the shopping center is located in, then by Director John Cocca of the Arizona Department of Liquor. The City of Phoenix and Director Cocca have approved the Desert Ridge Marketplace plan.

Desert Ridge Marketplace will be the first shopping center in the state to provide this new shopping experience along with Vestar’s Tempe Marketplace, which is also in the process of seeking approvals to offer the same amenity.  According to the state legislation (House Bill 2281) up to 10 shopping centers throughout the state, greater than 400,000-square-feet, may apply for the three year pilot program.

Copper Blues Live will be the only location at Desert Ridge Marketplace where customers can purchase alcohol and then stroll outdoors with the drink while enjoying movies, concerts, and various outdoor amenities. The popular restaurant, comedy spot and entertainment venue says they expect this change in the law will help business across the center.

“We appreciate Vestar’s leadership to help make this change possible. We think it will be great not only for our business but the eligible shopping centers seeking to innovate with new and different ways to bring people and keep them at their properties,” said Eric Bachkoff, Partner of Copper Blues Live.

Vestar has long been known as a pioneer in new retail experiences from design of the centers themselves to programming of up to 300 events a year on-site.