Fishtown’s cool is creeping into Kensington.
William Reed and Paul Kimport, who opened Standard Tap when Northern Liberties wasn’t much more than an industrial badlands and transformed a dingy tavern called Johnny Brenda’s into a nationally-famous indie music venue in Fishtown, are preparing to open their third bar.
They’ve signed a bill of sale for Shenanigan’s Saloon at 1624 N. Front St, under the El at Cecil B. Moore. The bar is just a few blocks north of hot restaurant Wm. Mullerhin’s Sons, and right across from the new Evil Genius Beer Garden.
It’s also close to many of Philadelphia’s growing crop of craft distilleries — which was a big part of the appeal.
“Liberty Distilling, Stateside Vodka, there’s so much going on around there,” says Reed. “It’s exciting to be in a neighborhood like South Kensington, where there’s a lot of creative, maker-type businesses.”
Proximity to the distilleries also helped inspire the as-yet-unnamed bar’s focus. Instead of spotlighting local beer like they do at their other two establishments, the partners plan to showcase local spirits.
The new spot will definitely have a great beer program, but “in some ways we’re flip-flopping the concept,” Reed says. “We’ll have the local spirits be the focus and go abroad for the beer.”
Plans call for a relatively quick revamp of the bi-level space. Shenanigan’s is currently open and serving, and the previous owners had already upgraded the building with new wiring, electricity and plumbing. Some of the interior will be redone, but some will stay the same — like the reclaimed wood from the flooring of the Palestra.
“It’s very different from our other two projects,” Reed notes, recalling that he and Kimport had to gut both Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda’s and rebuild them from the inside out. “Not everything is exactly the way we would do it, but the basic stuff is pretty solid.”
Kimport has already come up with most of the menu, which will go beyond regular pub fare but not be too extensive.
“We want to do really high-quality food — Paul wouldn’t let himself do anything else,” says Reed, but he eschews the idea of creating a dining destination. “I want someone to walk in and be like, ‘Oh, a bar. Cool.’ Not ‘Oh, what a clever concept.’”
Opening a third spot has been something the pair has wanted to do for several years now, but they were determined to wait for the right location. This summer, they finally found it.
“Philadelphians’ opinions of being under the El has changed dramatically over the past decade,” Reed says. “For years there wasn’t anyone except planner types who’d use the phrase ‘transit-oriented development.’ Now people consider being next to the El a positive.”
As for the timeline, expect a re-launch sometime this fall.
“We have a lot of pent-up energy, so we’re gonna get right in on it.”