Micah Blatt owns what many people would call a "head shop."
His North Fourth Avenue store, in the heart of the city's entertainment district, sells mostly glass pipes and bongs.
Though it's named Fathead Glass, Blatt prefers to call it a "glass art shop."
"We sell chandeliers, wine glasses and shot glasses, too," Blatt says.
"Head shop" vs. "glass art shop" - it may seem an academic debate. But his careful wording may have helped him win a liquor license for a bar he hopes to open next door.
He won the license despite opposition from the Tucson City Council, the West University Neighborhood Association and the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association.
On Aug. 5, the Arizona State Liquor Board approved Blatt's request for a series 6 license that will allow him to serve beer, wine and liquor at 513 N. Fourth Ave., Suite 101, which was previously a clothing store, and on the adjoining patio at 509 N. Fourth Ave.
At the hearing, Blatt repeatedly referred to Fathead as a "glass art shop" and Assistant City Prosecutor Gioia Sanderson never asked what type of art Fathead sells.
Nobody from the neighborhood association or the merchants group was present at the hearing to testify. The neighborhood association instead sent a letter.
Neighborhood association president Chris Ganz says he didn't think his testimony would be necessary.
"We had been told that it was almost impossible that the state liquor board would override a unanimous City Council vote," he says.
Kelly Stetson, the liquor board administrator, says board members didn't know Fathead specialized in smoking paraphernalia.
Would the liquor board have made a different decision if the members had known?
"It certainly is a possibility," says Stetson.
Blatt, 32, plans to name his bar Mr. Head's.
Of course, he doesn't like to call it a bar - it's more of an art gallery that also serves booze.
"We're doing a full art gallery," Blatt testified before the liquor board. "We're doing a floating glass bar top. Inside the glass bar top we'll have glass marbles, pendants and jewelry for sale."
Blatt says he'll also have paintings hanging on the walls and on the ceiling, and he'll play music by local musicians.
He says he won't take a commission if somebody buys one of the paintings hanging in the bar.
"It would be great to help some other artists," he says.
At the hearing, Blatt's attorney presented a letter of support signed by more than 20 local business owners.
The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association opposes any new bars on North Fourth Avenue, citing a lack of parking on weekend evenings as its biggest concern.
The West University Neighborhood Association is of a similar opinion.
"I don't sense any support for future series 6 licenses on Fourth Avenue," Ganz says.
Stetson says the liquor board could vote to rehear the case if the board is presented with "newly discovered material evidence."
He says he anticipates receiving letters from the neighborhood and merchants groups calling for a rehearing.
"My board is going to meet on Tuesday," says Kurt Tallis, events and marketing director for the merchants association. "They're going to discuss it."
Blatt isn't worried.
"I don't think that's going to happen," Blatt says, adding that the merchants association "has already sent me a congratulations letter."
The liquor board's Oct. 7 hearing is the soonest the board could rehear the case.
Blatt says he hopes to start construction on Mr. Head's next week.
Arizona Daily Star
Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010
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Booze coming to 'glass art shop' despite opposition