Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

This week we’re going to speak with Ronnie Spece. He with his wife Christian, are the owners of Batch Whiskey and Donuts, the bar in downtown Tucson. We’re going to find out how that combination came to be and we’re also on the verge of an opening of a brand new concept in their basement. It’s called Snake and Barrel. We’re going to get all the details in just a few minutes.

Today is November 13th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on DowntownRadio.org- we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app. Reach us by email contact@lifealongthestreetcar.org — interact with us on Facebook at LifeAlongTheStreetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from Emory Heights, “Pick Your Poison.”

Transcript (Unedited)

Good morning. It’s a beautiful sunny day with Weblow. You’re listening to KT DT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsored or rockin roll radio station.

This week we’re going to speak with Ronnie Spece. He with his wife Christian, are the owners of Batch Whiskey and Donuts, the bar in downtown Tucson. We’re going to find out how that combination came to be and we’re also on the verge of an opening of a brand new concept in their basement. It’s called Snake and Barrel. We’re going to get all the details in just a few minutes.

Today is November 13, 2022. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life along the Streetcar. Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core. We shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM streaming@downtownradio.org.

Also available on your iPhone or Android with our very own downtown radio app. When you head over to your Google Player app store, you want to get downtown Radio Tucson, make sure you get the right station in your pocket there. Our show email address is contact@lifealongthistreatcard.org. Although really people don’t use that too often. We find more connections on social media with Facebook and Instagram, life along the Streetcars or hashtag our usernames over there, the past episodes, information about our book, all those types of things are on our website, lifelongthustreecar.org. And the podcast is out in lots of places. Speaking of things that are out in lots and lots of places, how about the events in downtown? Wrapping up dusk this weekend we’re heading into the cycling season. Remember, next weekend is El Tour de Tucson. So the streets are going to be a little bit packed and blocked off for the mornings, especially around the downtown area. And if you ever get frustrated with that,

head over to our webpage there Lifelongstreetcar.org, the search bar. Put in the El Torto Tucson and look at some of our past interviews talked about the impact to Tucson because it’s not just a bike ride. They raise money for a lot of charities in Tucson and hopefully that will go and create a little bit of goodwill as they’re out and about cycling around our beautiful city. And then also next weekend, the Tucson Museum of Art. They have that big fair they do right around Thanksgiving every year a couple of days, I think it’s Saturday and Sunday of next week. Head over to the Museum of Art and you can find all kinds of local makers there. And we just had the reopening of Playground, the bar and restaurant right there on the corner of Fifth in Congress. It’s been closed since COVID They’ve revamped it, got some food in there, beverages, and they are back open now. So things really starting to pop here in downtown. And something else that’s on the verge is our feature today. We’ve got Ronnie

space. He’s a coowner with his wife Kristin of Batch whiskey bar. They’re whiskey and Donut bar in downtown Tucson, and they are launching a new concept in their basement. So we had to find out about this. I sat down by phone with Ronnie just a few days ago and got the scoop. It should be opening here soon, but Ronnie is going to tell us all about how they got started and what we’re going to see in the near future.

All right, my name is Ronnie space, and my wife Chris and I are the owner operators of Batch downtown and the upcoming basement bar and bottle shop.

As well, batch downtown. So, Phyllison, I’m very familiar with batch, but there might be one or two people that aren’t. So you’ve been in downtown about six, seven years now.

January will be seven years. So hard to believe time flies, but, yeah, seven years kind of feel like become a bit of a fixture down here. I made it past the honeymoon period. We are known as the whiskey and Donut bar or whiskey and donut place, and we are Arizona’s largest collection of whiskey. We’re at about 900 just over 900 different whiskey bottles.

Yeah, I saw there. You actually made the COVID of some whiskey magazine, didn’t you? Like, you were, like, the best in Arizona, or was it the largest?

Well, there’s a publication called the bourbon review, and they do an annual list of America’s best bourbon bars, and we are the only Arizona bar to make that list ever. We made it last year for the first time and just made it again this year recently. So that was pretty neat to receive some national recognition for what we’re doing here.

Absolutely. At a little old tucson, and you use the term 900 bottles of whiskey, but that number is kind of hard to fathom. I think people have to come in and you have them all displayed like your entire bar is a wall of whiskey.

Yeah, we’re in the historic building here. 118 is congress, and it’s got 20 foot high ceilings, and we got with almost to the roof anyway. A lot of places that boast a large collection, you don’t see them necessarily or you don’t know where they all are. And unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of places have a menu that’s large, but you go to order something and they don’t actually have it in stock. But, yeah, ours are right in your face. You can see them all on display at all times.

And your bartenders are very knowledgeable, too. I’ve been in, and they’ve kind of guided me into something that they thought I would enjoy based upon my because I’m not an aficionado by any means, I enjoy, but they kind of guided me, and sometimes that means they have to get on a ladder to go get what they told me was probably my best fit. So they’re working hard in there, too?

Yeah, absolutely. They’re great. They’ve been with us. The two main guys we have are coming up in four and five years each, so they’re with us. Pre pandemic hung with us through that. Soon as we had some hours, they came back. And then as soon as we opened in October of 20, they came right back to work. We’re a small mom pop, so we’re a little family here. And those guys, neither was a huge whiskey nut before. They were both skilled bartenders with a lot of experience. But we’ve kind of really gotten them into whiskey big time, so they know their product. And a friend of mine custom engineered that ladder you mentioned. Because our space is so narrow, a conventional library type ladder just wouldn’t work. So my buddy, who’s a hobbyist, built it in his garage. But it’s this 1214 foot ladder that on a track that slides up out of the way, made up steel. It’s pretty neat and very useful.

Yeah, the bar is so well lit. It’s just a really kind of an iconic photo when you walk in there. The backlighting, the bottles, the historic building, everything in there is really kind of special. Well, you said it’s a mom and pop place. Let’s talk about mom and pop. You and Christian, you started this. You just wake up one day and say, I want a whiskey, and she’s like, I want a donut. And you’re like, yeah, let’s open up a place. There’s no place that serves both. Is that how this happens?

Almost, but not with her. Actually, we had a former partner that sort of had the donut side of it, and I was the whiskey side. Between us, it did happen kind of that way, or just organically was like, hey, what if we did these two things together? In late 2015, the owner of what was unplugged at the time, a wine bar in our space here, had approached us about selling his business. I think it was more of a hey, do you know anyone kind of thing. And for us, it was like, well, yeah, how about us? And so just sort of this luck timing thing that came together organically and this opportunity get in this really cool space that was largely already ready to go. And we literally pulled down the wine bottles, put up some whiskey bottles, and opened hours after he closed down. So he did a New Year’s Eve party as unplugged. 1230, 115, and we opened the morning of 1116.

That’s probably going to be the fastest turnaround.

Yeah. Honestly, it was insane. I can’t believe it worked. And we had a line down the block. We started off gangbusters, and it was a little crazy. It was fun for a minute, and then it kind of was like, we got to figure out what we’re doing here in our entity and people. The novelty, the initial novelty wore off after six months. We still did well, but it was like, okay, we need to dial this in. And then over the couple of years, it felt like we really got better. 2018, we really, I think, had it figured out for the most part, although we’re still improving, I feel like, all the time and trying to get better and do new things. But, yeah, it was not a super calculated hey. There was an article that came out back when we opened that there’s this trend to pair wacky things together, and the article cited things around the country that were just pairing, whether it’s a drink and a food item or just kind of novel pairings. And ours was never meant to be like, oh, let’s do this crazy trendy pairing

of two polar opposite items. For us, it really made sense. What’s more classic than whiskey and sugar? Whiskey and chocolate and dessert?

Whiskey.

So these things are all made they’re made from grains, and it’s a lot of connection. So it sounds kind of wild when you just say whiskey and donuts. But when you think about it, when you try them together, it seems to work for most people.

Yeah. If anybody has had an old fashioned, you got whiskey and sweets combined there.

If you do a tour at a bourbon distillery, you get chocolate at the end.

Your experience, you clearly enjoyed whiskey, but you’re the whiskey guy. You’ve got 900 bottles of burber in your establishment. How did it become your thing?

Yeah, I mean, I definitely didn’t like whiskey in college or when I was younger, and this is a pretty common trajectory, I feel like, for people. You don’t start with the finer spirits that cost a lot of money. But I was always into nightlife. I remember I went to the U of A, and I remember a class, a freshman class, and they were doing the silly thing where you go around and introduce yourself, and essentially you say, what do you want to be when you grow up? Just remember saying I wanted to own a nightclub and just really always liked the nightlife, though. And I was into music, and the nightclub thing just always interested me. As I grew up, my taste changed and matured, and I want to say it was late 2000, oughts about our first trip to New York, and I visited this basement bourbon bar that I always kind of go back to in interviews. It’s now out of business, but it was in the East Village in Manhattan, and it was a place, kind of a divy place in the basement, but they had close to 100

bourbons in this dive bar. This is wild. And the bartender, I said, hey, I’ve had a few of the big names, but give me something. What should I have? And it gave me Eagle rare. That’s the only one I remember from that night. I probably had eight or nine, honestly. So a memory of beyond the beginning is a bit fuzzy, but I was sipping bourbon for the first time, really. I really remember that moment as kind of a turning point that really got me into the whiskey path. And then so over the last 15 years, it really become a pretty big interest of mine.

Well, we’re going to find out how that trip to New York influenced him in other ways because he talked about a basement bar. We’re going to need all the details of their basement bar coming up right after the break. But first, I want to remind you that you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar at Downtown Radio 99. One FM. Available for streaming@downtownradio.org.

This podcast is sponsored by the Mortgage Guidance Group and Noble Home Loans. If you enjoy this podcast, keep listening or head over to lifelongthstreetcar.org for all of our past episodes, current events and things to do while visiting Tucson. Tom Heath and a mosque number 182420 nova and a MLS number 3087 BK number 090-2429 equal housing opportunity.

We’re going to finish up that interview we have with Ronnie Space. He and his wife Kristin own the bar downtown Batch, that serves whiskey and donuts. We also know that they’re about to open up a new concept in their basement, and we’re going to get into the details of that right now. The place also had a big influence on you because we’re about to talk about your next project, which sounds like you might have gotten some inspiration there.

Perfect segue. Being from Tucson, basements are very exotic to me. You never had one in your house and very few buildings in Tucson have them. But there’s actually quite a few downtown and especially here on Congress. And we’ve got this basement that’s been here under us for over 100 years and it’s been a storage facility basically for that whole time. So we thought, let’s activate this thing. We’ve been talking about it. It was kind of a joke back in 2016 when we first opened. But that seems so unrealistic at that time to even consider it.

You haven’t been to Batch. I like it on your website. It’s described perfectly. It’s a cozy shotgun space. You got a really nice outdoor patio, but when you go in, it’s a long and narrow tables bar. Really long bar. And of course, you have the space for the 900 bottles of whiskey. But it is a little bit of a tight spot.

More whiskey than we have square footage, literally.

But now I got a chance to see the basement. It certainly wasn’t finished at the time, but that’s a huge space right below you. I mean, it’s significantly more square footage than what you have upstairs for operations.

Absolutely. It’s about a 90 foot deep space. The total under roof, if you will, is 3500 sqft down there. So it’s quite large compared to our under 700 sq ft at Batch currently.

Now, is it going to be Batch or is it going to be a different entity?

Same entity, but it will have its own identity and name. We’re calling it Snake and the barrel. If you look at our logo, you see the Batch lettering and under that is a little snake wrapped around a whiskey barrel. That was not our initial logo. In 2016. Again, we opened so fast that we just sort of had a text logo. But once we had time to think about it, I think it was early 2017, we had a designer review. Our logo and the concept behind it was just pick your poison. So that’s the snake and the whiskey thing. So it’s a rattlesnake wrapped around a whiskey barrel. So we always loved the concept but we never really played it up. But we used that Snake and Barrel logo. We took that out of the logo and put it on merchandise. Whiskey glasses and hats and shirts. So it’s always been this little icon. We’ve used that’s part of Batch, so it kind of was fitting to use that as this I call it an offshoot of Batch. So this bar is not a whiskey bar, it’s a full bar, a cocktail bar in a basement. It’s

part of what we do. But it’s not Batch, it’s different. So we’re really using that pick your poison thing down there with this huge array of spirits. They pick your poison. Is it wine, is it cocktails? Of course we’ll have decent whiskey down there, but not the focus like it is upstairs.

Will you enter through Batch or is there its own entrance?

Yeah, so there is a separate entrance I’ve been referring to as hidden in plain sight. Anybody that’s walked down Congress has walked right by the door and not noticed it. It’s right off the sidewalk next to Batch. So if you were coming west on Congress from 6th Avenue, you would see the door. But if you look at the stand in front of Batch, looking at it, you don’t even see the door. It’s kind of hidden, but it’s there.

Even once you see it, it’s interesting. It’s got that speakeasy kind of feel like this hidden entrance. And you go down into a basement that’s really interesting because you have that architecture from 100 years that’s built up in that basement. It’s really a neat space and I haven’t seen it finished, but I’ve heard it’s absolutely beautiful. Are you open in November? What’s your target?

So our target, which will probably be fully committed to soon, is to soft open shortly after this errors. So that week of the mid to late 17th, 18th, 19 November, some friends and family type stuff and then targeting grand opening for Thanksgiving week.

Oh, fantastic. Where do people get information? Is it on your website? Batch tucson.com. Or will have its own website, so.

There’Ll be a page. So there is snakeandbarrel. So A and D for that snakeandbarrel.com. And that points to a page on the Batch Tucson website. So it’s batchtucan combasement. So that URL for there. And then we do have an at snake and barrel Instagram page as well.

Okay. We’re kind of running low on time and I feel bad because Christian spend so much time making these fabulous doughnuts for Batch.

Yes, she’s doing it right now.

We are short changing the donuts for the whiskey and the snake and barrel, but we will definitely link to everything on Batch. And if you haven’t had an opportunity to at least check out the atmosphere, even if you’re not a whiskey or donut person, I think just experiencing what you experienced when you walked into that building, that historic building and the way you built it out, I think that in and of itself is worth the trip. Just to soak in that ambience that you’ve created down there, I think you’ve done a fabulous job with it.

Yeah. Thank you so much. We do get tourists that walk by. They’re walking down Congress, they peek in, they take a picture and they keep going. But I appreciate the people like what we’ve built in there, especially these days, carry instagramable, that is for sure.

Where the mom and pop? It’s Christian and Ronnie. It’s Batch. It’s been open since 2016. The snake and barrel will be coming very soon here in November in the basement. Appreciate you holding up that end of the block. There’s a lot of construction happening there, so there’s a lot of exciting things coming both sides of you. But right now you’re holding down the fort on Congress between 6th and Scott. So thanks for doing that.

My pleasure. Thanks to you guys out there and all the support. We’re downtown residents and longtime business owners now down here and it’s awesome to be part of it.

Well, we’re very appreciative of people like Ronnie and Kristen making downtown a very special place to be talked about. All the events at the top of the show that are just happening and popping. But there are times when there wasn’t as much going on and Batches really kind of kept that area alive and in people’s minds, think you’re going to see a lot of development happen in there next few months because many of those shops are due to open. But we appreciate Ronnie and Kristen keeping that flame going down there. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to Lifelong the Streetcar on downtown Radio 99, one FM and available for streaming on downtown radio.

Orgast is sponsored by the Mortgage Guidance group and Noble Home Loans. If you enjoyed this podcast, keep listening or head over to Lifealongistreetcar.org for all of our past episodes, current events and things to do while visiting Tucson. Tom Heath and a MLS number 182420 Nova and a MLS number 3087 VK number 090-2429 equal housing Opportunity.

Brothermock available details on his show available on downtown radio.org as well as all of our other DJs and show hosts. Coming up at the bottom of the hour here on Sunday, we have Ted Prazelski Words and work. He talks to writers and movement and members of the labor movement here in Tucson. And then at the top of the hour we have Heavy Mental with Ty Logan. Always really good, honest, candid information from Ty. Look forward to his show each week. He’s very positive individual, been through a lot and does a lot to heal our community. That’s at noon, Heavy Mental thai Logan back into the music. And Monday through Saturday we’re pretty much a rockmix radio station, so you can find all kinds of stuff that you might not normally find on your own. What I have found after being on the station for five years, I’ve listened to a lot of music that I don’t know I do know. I know that I never would have found it if it wasn’t for these knowledgeable DJs tuning us in to what they love. So in our

show we talk about finding all those hidden gems in the urban core. Our DJs find hidden gems throughout the musical universe. All those details are on downtownradio.org. And as a reminder, we are volunteer run station. So if you’re on that site and you find things of value, maybe exchange some of that value for some dollars here and there and click that donate button. We certainly rely on all of our listeners and our underwriters for support because we don’t have a commercial aspect to our station. So we do what we do because we enjoy it. The funds come in from those that want to support us and the volunteers from top to bottom. There’s not a paid person, so the money that you’re donating goes to the operation upkeep of the station and occasionally an improvement of a microphone here or there. So downtown radio.org, all kinds of cool stuff on there. Merch and others want to thank again. Ronnie Space from Batch Whisky Bar in the downtown area, very much excited about his soon to be snake

and barrel basement bar that’s coming out here soon. It’s probably going to come out this week, so be on the lookout for the details of that. And of course, as soon as we know for sure, we’ll post that information on our Facebook page. Then we got some shows coming up here as we get into a little bit more into the Thanksgiving spirits. There’s a new retail shop opening downtown that is exciting news if you live in the area, because we don’t have a lot of retailers, some, but this is going to bring a lot more opportunities to where the old proper restaurant used to be, right there in the corner of Congress and Fifth, across from Hotel Congress. And you had a playground there krystal Popoff is leading that effort. She has had some success with coworking spaces and kind of taking that concept to move it into the retail world for what she is calling the proper shops in honor of that restaurant. Very cool name. So we’re going to have her talk about her vision and what we can expect because that

is going to be opening very soon as well. And then some other activities. The Thanksgiving holidays, all kinds of food out there, delicious food. Well, there’s some exercise and there’s a program out there called beyond. We’re going to get the chance to talk with some of the members of that and how they’re getting people active and staying fit even through these gluttonous times that we have upon us. And if there’s a show that you want us to do, a topic, a guest, something that we need to uncover, hit us up with our email contact@lifelongthestreecar.org. Better yet, go over to social media, Instagram and Facebook. Tag us in something that you like, let us know, and we’ll go out there and do those interviews. We really appreciate all of the suggestions that you provide to us. Well, the new basement bar is going to be called Snake and Barrel. It’s got that logo from Batch, and the idea was Pick Your Poison, whiskey or Venom? So we’re going to leave you with a little music today. This is a

single put out earlier this year in August from a group called Emory Heights. It’s called pick your poison. My name is Tom Heath. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.

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