After six years serving Southwest-inspired food and craft beer on East Palmer Street in Fishtown, restaurateur Bob Bitros has sold Interstate Drafthouse.
But don’t get maudlin over the loss of one of the rapidly-changing neighborhood’s most laid-back bars just yet. The buyers — local accountant pals Keith Dailey, Bob Ritchie and Mike McCloskey — are planning to keep it open, with very few changes.
“We’ve visited many times as patrons and always loved the food, vibe [and] staff,” said Ritchie, who plans to head up day-to-day operations.
Does that mean patrons will still be able to order the famed Fishtown Iced Tea, a slosh-inducing take on the Long Island classic that sees vodka, rum, gin, tequila and triple sec mixed with Arctic Splash and served in the iconic paper carton? (The bar currently sells between 250 and 300 of them a week.)
Heck yeah. “100% keeping the Fishtown Iced Teas,” Ritchie confirmed. “They’re fun!”
Bitros, whose previous Philadelphia restaurants included Azure in Northern Liberties (now Dos Segundos) and Roxborough’s Adobe Cafe, said business at Interstate has been steadily getting better and better.
“I have very mixed feelings [about the sale], because it’s making money, and I’m very social there, too,” he said. The proliferation of other beer bars and brewpubs nearby has proved a positive for his side-street hideaway, which boasts a vegetarian-friendly menu, a popular brunch and a large covered patio that’s dog-friendly. “In the past six years, Fishtown has changed a lot,” Bitros noted, “but it’s brought more people and business to the neighborhood.”
Yet, he’s tired. “I’m 73, and my energy level isn’t what it used to be. I’m tired of all the bullcrap [that comes with owning a bar], and working seven days a week.”
After selling Azure to David Frank and Stephen Simons — Bitros still owns the building, and is their landlord at Dos Segundos — he hadn’t intended to open another spot. But when his son Brandon, who lived down the street from what was then a neighborhood dive bar called Moe’s, mentioned it was available, “I got the bug again!” Brandon Bitros was also involved with operations at Interstate Drafthouse, but is now concentrating on his career as an artist and founder of label Blackstone Comics, per his dad.
When the liquor license transfer is complete, new co-owner Ritchie expects to implement some changes, but he and his partners haven’t yet determined exactly what they might be.
The Taco Tuesday special, which is one of the best dollar taco deals in the city, will probably stay, and potentially so will the “Two-Fisted Wednesday” offer of a regular or veggie burger and pint of brew for $12.
“I would anticipate that we would keep them going,” Ritchie said. “Part of our attraction to the place is that it is an established destination.”