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Good news for soul food savorers and live music lovers. Warmdaddy’s will relaunch on North Broad Street next to sister restaurant South Jazz Kitchen before year’s end.
Customers were heartbroken in August when brothers Robert and Benjamin Bynum announced the popular spot on the Delaware waterfront would shut down.
Though the official statement from the Bynum Hospitality Group framed Warmdaddy’s closing as temporary, some reporting around it made the move seem permanent, and social media skeptics didn’t believe the restaurant would return. Not so.
“There was never a chance that it wouldn’t reopen,” co-owner Robert Bynum told Billy Penn. “I guess the question became, when we would reopen.”
The hunt for a new Warmdaddy’s locale had already started before the pandemic, Bynum said, because the lease on its Delaware Avenue building was expiring. Coronavirus did affect the plans: instead of looking to open somewhere totally new, the hospitality group consolidated.
“Once COVID hit, that kind of gave us our answer,” Bynum said. “There was no way we were going to open up in a new location with the uncertainty involved in society right now.”
Known for its casual atmosphere and live rhythm and blues music, Warmdaddy’s will slide into 1410 Mt. Vernon St. The address, a few blocks south of Fairmount Avenue, most recently housed Green Soul, the Bynums’ healthier food spot that never reopened after closing in mid-March, according to a spokesperson.
The hospitality group currently operates two other restaurants, the nearby South Jazz Kitchen and Relish in West Oak Lane.
Both are now open with outdoor and limited indoor dining, but the brothers took it slow. After shutting down in mid-March, they chose not to reopen as soon as the city allowed it, and instead rolled out takeout and delivery-only options, which were a hit on holidays like Mother’s Day and Juneteenth.
The Bynums have plenty of experience. They’ve cultivated their Philadelphia culinary community over several decades.
When their first spot, a jazz lounge called Zanzibar Blue, opened in 1990, it became the talk of the town. Even before then, the brothers were well-versed in the business. Their father, also named Benjamin, founded and owned North Philly’s Cadillac Club in 1965, where the brothers once worked.
For fans of Green Soul, it may yet return. In a phone interview, Robert Bynum said they remain committed to the concept and plan to relaunch it “once we do make it through,” the economic uncertainty of the pandemic.
In the meantime, the new Warmdaddy’s will have a refreshed menu that remains rooted in traditional southern soul food but also features some of Green Soul’s lighter, more health conscious offerings. It’s expected to reopen at some point in November, and will have a more modern atmosphere.
This marks the third physical move for what is now the Bynum Group’s longest running brand, and one of its most profitable.
Warmdaddy’s originally opened in 1995 on Front Street near Market. The restaurant moved to its most recent location a decade later. Now, as the restaurant prepares for its 25th anniversary, it’ll become part of the reinvigorated North Broad corridor.
Bynum said having restaurants located on that bustling corridor has helped boost business during tenuous times. The restaurant group has felt the coronavirus impact nonetheless, with a profit margin normally around 5% dropping to a deficit of that much instead.
“It’s really been an effort to try to figure out what the best path is for survival,” Bynum said.
During the early days of the pandemic, the restaurant group pivoted to providing meals for health care workers and working with Philabundance. That transition was enabled and supported by Pastor Alyn Waller and Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, Bynum said.
“We’ve been incredibly pleased and honored with the support that we’ve gotten from the African American community,” Bynum said. “There’s even been some that have really gone far beyond what our expectations were.”