Gigantic wine bottle brings fame, fortune to Boondocks tavern

2009-06-15T00:00:00Z Gigantic wine bottle brings fame, fortune to Boondocks tavernBy Brian J. Pedersen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The old-fashioned backlighted marquee above the Boondocks Lounge displays drink specials, upcoming live musical acts and other notes meant to draw business into the North Side bar.

But who needs a sign when you've got a 35-foot-tall wine bottle plunked out in front?

The purple-and-green-painted Chianti bottle is as recognizable as any roadside landmark in Tucson, and it's a big reason why the Boondocks, at 3306 N. First Ave., gets its fair share of walk-in traffic, co-owner Cathy Warner said.

"That bottle definitely gets its use," said Warner, who bought the bar with Bill Shew in 1996. "It gets the attention that it deserves."

The Boondocks is the fourth Tucson business the couple have owned in their 37 years together. They owned the Chicago Bar, on East Speedway, for four years during the mid-1980s, as well as a pair of Midtown breakfast joints.

None of those places, though, had as iconic a marker as the Boondocks' bottle, with its real-cork top and its diminutive back door (now padlocked shut) that once served as entry to storage space.

The Chianti bottle arrived at the site, just north of the Navajo Wash, in 1974 as part of the design for an Italian restaurant known as the Peasant Villa. Original owners William H. and Georgann Muniz commissioned noted artist Michael Kautza to build the concrete-and-rebar bottle for $3,500.

Kautza, known for his concrete artwork, also made the Tack Room's famous boot, as well as the giant cow skull at the Cow Palace in Amado.

Warner said that even though it's hollow inside, the bottle is far too heavy for her to ever worry about someone trying to steal it. Nor is she worried about it getting swept away or damaged by the nearby wash, which often fills quickly during the monsoon.

What does concern her, though, is what would happen if the city were to find the need to widen First Avenue from its current five lanes.

"I just sure hope they're never going to widen that street and mow it down, because that'd just break my heart," she said.

Until then, the Boondocks will continue to direct customers by the bottle out front, rather than by the nearest cross streets.

"We say 'the big wine bottle out front,' " Warner said. "It's purple and green. You can't miss it."

Got oddity?

Is there something you've noticed while driving through Tucson that has piqued your curiosity to the point you wish you could find out more about it?

Drop us a line, and we'll look into it. Call Brian J. Pedersen at 573-4224 or send an e-mail to bjp@azstarnet.com.

Contact reporter Brian J. Pedersen at 573-4224 or bjp@azstarnet.com.

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