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Three Philly natives who met via the city’s club scene decided last year it was time to open their own place. They scouted a location, and in less than a year, Shak McClary, P.C. Prince and Steve Mahoney had opened their first lounge.
Called Room Service, the South Street West spot’s grand opening was in February 2020.
You know what came next. After a ceremonious reception from the nightlife community, the buzzy destination came to an abrupt halt.
“It was tricky because right as we launched, this place was like, boom,” said McClary, 27, of Room Service’s initial popularity. “And just as we were rolling…corona hit like the next month.”
The three-story building, located just west of Broad at 1427 South St., suddenly became nothing more than a place for the three owners to hang out, grill food and chop it up. Then, a lightbulb went off.
Thanks to a brainstorm from co-owner Prince, 29, you now can enter the temporarily shuttered Room Service, pass through a corridor covered in rose petals and blush-colored bottles of rosé wine, and enter the transformed back yard.
Known as Rose Garden, the trio’s pandemic pivot soft-opened at the top of July.
The cute, laid-back wine garden added another Black-owned spot to the prominent shopping and dining corridor. Of the more than 500 businesses from 4th Street to the Schuylkill, only about 45 of them are Black owned.
Leaning into that identity during an era of renewed energy for the Black Lives Matter movement has helped spread the word. “We like to hire Black,” Mahoney said. “We like to have Black chefs, Black runners, Black bartenders, Black hookah people. We try to support and bring people in.”
Nearby, McClary was wearing an “I got your Black” t-shirt made by a friend. He said the garden “absolutely” enjoyed a boost in patronage because it’s Black-owned.
One recent Friday night, guests Brandon Thompson and friend Kyshon Jackson gushed over sangrias, fries, and lemon pepper wings about being able to relax with friends at a chill, Black-owned spot near downtown. Over the sound of singer Mya crooning “Best of Me” in the background, the two first-time visitors said they’d likely return.
“To be able to support people that look like you, have experienced things like you — especially in the city where you call home, I mean, you got to support them,” Thompson said. “Supporting them is supporting yourself, and supporting your community and supporting the future of our city.”
Wine cocktails, picturesque backgrounds and lots of flowers
Rose Garden — pronounce it like the flower, not like NYC’s Rosé Garden — was designed to appeal to the ladies, co-owner Mahoney, 33, said.
That concept was infused into the floral decor, and there’s a brick wall covered in faux ivy and neon lights that makes the perfect backdrop for an Instagram flick.
It also helped direct the design of the drink menu. There’s the Cloud 9, for example, a sparkling wine/candy vodka flute topped with real cotton candy. All the cocktails are wine-based ($9 to $15), and there are also classic wine offerings curated by Mahoney, whom Prince called a “connoisseur.”
A full slate of food with dishes like wings and fried Brussels keeps the place in line with Gov. Tom Wolf’s rule that guests who order booze must also order something to eat.
Wooden tables and chairs dot the space, which comfortably seats about 45 people when following CDC, city and state coronavirus health and safety guidelines, according to McClary.
It fills up fast, though: McClary said the wine garden welcomes more than 150 people on any given evening, and there can be a 1 to 2-hour wait for a table on weekend nights.
Coronavirus consequences still lurk. The co-owners applied for PPP and various other business loans, but haven’t locked anything down. They said it’s still too early to know whether the outdoor space will allow them to recoup their losses or break even on the building and operating costs.
The team’s now thinking toward winter. They plan to set up tents and heaters, and hope to defy whatever wrench cold weather tries to throw toward their urban oasis.
“We’re making it look good,” Mahoney said, laughing.
“We’re surviving,” echoed Prince.