Jim Anderson is selling everything in his 23-year-old midtown Tucson dive bar.
There are the dozen cases of alcohol that have been collecting dust since the city and state ordered bars shut down in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the kegs of beer that he hasn’t tapped into.
The pictures on the walls. Ladders. Tools. Microwaves and blenders. Glasses and plates. Tables and chairs. It all has to go by Oct. 15 when he is expected to walk away from the Meet Rack, which he has operated since 1997 at 210 W. Drachman St. and where he literally calls home — he lives in a little side room.
He is even putting up for sale — for $85 — his signature branding iron that he’s used over the past 20 years to hot brand 3,545 people with a quarter-sized likeness of his face. That number includes four people who heard that he was closing and went in to be branded Sunday.
“People came in from all over the world. I got pictures … in 35 photo albums … of people from Hawaii and Tahiti, from all over,” Anderson, who has been known to call himself “God,” said Monday, a day after announcing on Facebook that he was closing the bar for good and selling everything inside.
“I haven’t sold a drink since March,” he said, blaming his closing on COVID-19 social distancing restrictions that limit the number of people allowed inside the bar and restrict what they can do once inside. “They are telling you you can open up your bar but with 50% capacity. You can’t have a pool table. You can’t dance or congregate. What’s left? People go out to be with other people and if you can’t touch them and you have to be 6 feet away, why bother going out.”
Anderson, who ran for mayor two times and was once unsuccessfully sued by a customer who alleged he forcibly branded her when she was intoxicated, said he has not paid rent on the bar for the past six months. The building is owned by his former business partner, with whom he ran a bar in the mid-1990s before taking a couple years off to sail around the world with his brother. The owner told him two weeks ago that he could no longer go without collecting Anderson’s rent.
Anderson’s daughter, Hollis, owns the Meet Rack, which she bought for her father to run when Anderson lost his liquor license after being cited by the city for some 60 violations. Anderson said the citations were politically motivated.
Anderson, 79, has operated six bars in Tucson since the 1970s including the Pig Pen and his first venture, Someplace Else, that he ran from 1972 to 1986.
He hinted that Tucson may not have heard the last from him. If someone offers the financing, he would consider opening another bar, this one to be called 13th Step. But the venture is a couple years off; he is waiting to see if the politics at Tucson City Hall change.
“I’m in the bar business not for the money; I love serving people,” he said. “For me to sit here since March without customers drives me nuts.”