Philly food and drink scene

New upscale cocktail bar has a big goal: Uniting East and West Passyunk

Introducing The Thirsty Soul, a bar with a church theme and a neighborhood mission.

Thirsty Soul proprietor Billy Hines at Sancho Pistola's in 2014

Thirsty Soul proprietor Billy Hines at Sancho Pistola's in 2014

Danya Henninger

You’ve probably sipped cocktails created by Billy Hines. If not at Sancho Pistola’s, where he works as a bartender, then at one of the dozens of spots around Philly where he’s done consulting on drink menus. And now, he’s going out on his own.

Hines has signed a lease and acquired a liquor license with plans to open The Thirsty Soul, a cocktail bar with a full kitchen at 1551 W. Passyunk Ave., the triangular corner space at 16th and West Passyunk.

A church theme will run throughout the place: Stained glass bar countertop, pews for seating, potentially a confessional booth as a back doorway. Following the tagline “Comfort & Spirits,” the main focus will be the drinks, but there will also be a menu of what Hines calls “Southern comfort brunch food” served seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

“It’ll be almost like a Center City style bar,” Hines said, “but also very much for the neighborhood.”

Partnered with Hines on the project are Tim Lidiak, who happens to be president of the neighborhood group Newbold CDC, and Adrienne Salvatore-Markey, the landlord of the building. The trio is united by a larger vision: To help bring the buzz of East Passyunk across the Broad Street divide.

“It’s like night and day when you cross over. Eventually, I hope it won’t be ‘West Passyunk’ and ‘East Passyunk’ — it should just be ‘Passyunk,’” Hines said.

Though it’s still mostly populated by dowdy appliance stores and a handful of fast food chains, things have been slowly coming along for the western half of the corridor. Two years ago Chaat & Chai Indian restaurant opened behind the Melrose Diner, just across the street from where The Thirsty Soul will be, and last December Brewery ARS launched its tasting room a few blocks down the avenue. Second District Brewing and Miss Rachel’s Pantry also operate nearby, a stone’s throw to the north.

Having two breweries right there is one reason Hines isn’t planning to focus on beer, though he will offer a solid selection. His specialty is cocktails that are creative and interesting but don’t take forever to make. “Lots of bowls and infusions” is how he describes his planned drinks program.

The interior needs a lot of work, since it was formerly a day care and will need a full kitchen installed. Hines is going for around 50 seats, many of them along the bar, which he’s planning to outfit with a $15,000 “Tobin Ellis Cocktail Station” — a piece of equipment he fell for (and was in a promo video for) at the annual Nightclub & Bar Expo Conference in Las Vegas.

The Thirsty Soul is targeting a launch near the end of 2017.

Want some more? Explore other Philly food and drink scene stories.

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