Hey Ace: What happened to that newsstand that used to be on the Downtown Mall? Didn’t that guy who bought it want to turn it into a bar?—Rhea Porter
Rhea: Ace is always skeptical when someone wants to buy something with the intention of turning it into a drinking venue. Seems to Ace all those monies could be used on the alcohol, and the venue could simply be…the house. But, when one turns said “something” (in this case, the kiosk formerly situated in front of CVS on the Mall) into a squirrel bar? Well, that’s just selfless.
O.K., O.K. Let Ace start from the beginning. In the early 1990s, developer Lee Danielson obtained a lease for the kiosk, drew up a rough sketch, and SNL founder Reid Nagle paid to have it built. Soon after, Nagle donated the kiosk to the city. From there, the cedar structure was placed in front of CVS and used for many purposes—a flower shop, a newsstand, a tobacco shop, and, at one point, Orbit Billiards owner Andrew Vaughan wanted to turn it into a nighttime hotspot (but he couldn’t get a liquor license). Alas, nothing stuck.
“We got rid of it because it was not a good place to do business the way it was configured,” says Neighborhood Development Director Jim Tolbert. “No one who tried it was a success and the city could not afford to keep someone in it for information or other purposes.” So, instead of simply destroying it, the city auctioned it off last winter to the highest bidder—Richard Hewitt—for $2,011.
“I bought it because I thought it was cool,” Hewitt tells Ace when he gets him on the horn. “I appreciated its architecture and whimsy.” Plus, Hewitt says, he thought it would be good to use by the pool at Keswick, where he works. But, after he bought it, the powers that be thought it seemed too big for the space.
Currently, the kiosk can be found in Hewitt’s front yard, where he gets to enjoy it daily. He says he may eventually move it to the back yard to use as a bar, but right now it’s occupied by a squirrel’s nest. “It’s a squirrel bar,” Hewitt tells Ace. Which is nice, because who doesn’t need one of those?