By Annika Tomlin
Four years ago, Jason Chance and his pro pool player friend Scott Frost opened a pool hall off Mill Avenue and Broadway Road and dubbed it Freezers.
Just before the pandemic, Chance thought it was time for a change. So, he founded Mill’s Modern Social.
“We were like, ‘Something isn’t working,’” says Chance, who lives in Des Moines. “It’s a nice place but just not nice enough to really draw people in and to really make money. So, we changed the whole concept.”
They renamed it Mill’s Modern Social and brought Justin Jereb on board. He formerly ran Sandbar and then CB Live, both of which are in Desert Ridge Marketplace. He rolls his 20 years of experience into his general manager position at Mills Modern Social.
“Before Mill’s Modern Social, it was Freezers and primarily a pool hall with 32 pool tables,” Jereb says. “We wanted to reinvent it and make it more of a cool place. The only thing that is from the original venue is the (pool) tables.”
When COVID-19 hit the Valley last year, Chance and his brother/co-owner Greg remodeled and rebranded it.
“(At Freezers), when you walk in, there would be a pool table 8 feet from the entrance,” Chance says. “I’m not trying to intimidate people.
“People were like, ‘Do I really want to be here? If I’m not playing pool, I feel like I am bothering the people playing pool.’ Now you can walk in and go to the bar, you can sit (at a range of locations). … Before, the pool tables owned the whole place; now they don’t, and that’s on purpose.”
Construction on the 60,000-square-foot space began in August to turn the strictly pool hall into a multigame venue with a new menu, an arcade, darts and an updated outdoor layout.
“It wasn’t like a crazy demo, but it was a lot,” Jereb says. “The people who were here before will walk in and (give a look) like it is a whole different world.”
Jereb calls the revamped menu “more of an elevated gastropub with burgers, sandwiches, flatbreads” in lieu of pool hall snack food. Jereb is adding more entrees, including salmon, ahi and chicken. Unlike its predecessor, Mill’s Modern Social even has a full wine list.
“Right now, the menu that they had before is completely erased,” Jereb says. “We didn’t keep anything from the original.
“The grilled pesto chicken sandwich ($12) — it’s phenomenal. The executive chef (Rey-jen Stanya) and I wanted to do a Cuban ($12) because we know that a lot of places don’t have Cubans.”
Those two dishes are the fastest-selling entrees. The wings even have a new spin.
“Our wings ($14) are kind of different, too, because we don’t fry them,” he says. “We bake them and then we grill them, and they come right off the bone.”
Following his queue at Sandbar, Jereb will launch Taco Tuesdays. The brunch menu will resemble his at CB Live.
“We just wanted to get the ball rolling (first),” Jereb says.
Mill’s Modern Social opened on February 17, without a grand opening due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’m not having a G.O. that way,” Jereb says.
He’s hoping to still have his “G.O.” when the COVID-19 restrictions lift. Meanwhile, they’re trying to find their flow, he says.
“We’re trying to just have a cool place and dope vibe in Tempe,” he says. “We want to actually have a nice place to come and sit and not feel like you’re on Mill. It’s very comfortable. We want people to come in and stay for a couple hours.” CT
Mill’s Modern Social
83 E. Broadway Road, Tempe