For the past two nights, we’ve indulged in the grand re-opening of a South Philly institution, The Dolphin, at Broad and Tasker. You know, the formerly-divey bar with the big sign out front that had notoriously atypical strippers and billiards. Well, it’s hip again thanks to those Four Corners management dudes responsible for Union Transfer and Morgan’s Pier. And that’s right, we went opening night and the following night. Just makin’ sure that whiskey’s still good – quality control.
1. Let’s start from the very beginning. We’re not mad at the bike parking situation – there are lots of signs and bike racks to lock up to. And one sweet young lady actually saw me walking my bike on the sidewalk as she came crossed Tasker and said ‘You look like you need a place to lock up.’ No cover, which is tight, and that door dude is legit; long gray hair, leather, cap of manliness and that slightly grizzled look that, say, that English mirage that Wayne has in Wayne’s World 2. We will not be fucking with him. Ever.
2. There are a couple city bartenders from places we’ve known and loved who’ve made the jump, and that’s part of the reason why we went. Let’s call her Murph, who’s been slinging drinks at Woody’s and Voyeur (and the Institute) for what feels like forever got pinballed around that narrow oval of a bar on Wednesday night. No time for chit chat, which we usually enjoy; she had people waving money at her for hours straight. Matt’s a beloved face at Kraftwork and the P.O.P.E. and he closed down the eastern half of the bar last night with a smile and a shine in his eyes. Good people.
3. Yes, there are dancers. But whereas we’ve heard in the past that Dolphin girls have worn just an X of electrical tape to cover nips, the ladies on opening night wore slightly bizarro opaque sparkly unitards. Like gymnasts on acid with The Fifth Element-like Mila Jovovich wigs. There are simple, cleared card tables on each end of the vaguely figure eight-shaped bar that ladies dance artistically, a little oddly and seductively. But it’s not slutty or even all that graphically sexy. On Thursday night they wore unicorn head masks with more traditionally-revealing and naughty-girdled night nurse whites. More of the latter, please.
4. There isn’t a ton that appears drastically different in terms of the physical space. As a patron who never stepped into the original gangster space, hearsay reports that they took down cobwebby chandeliers and removed an old-school floor-lit dancefloor (think Saturday Night Fever) and put that weird LED-ness up on the walls. Some cool metal lattice-work separates the front bar from the dance floor which was extended to usurp the pool table space. Wood paneling still lines the walls with big, bulbous rainbow brite string lights running along the ‘architectural detail’ of a weird shelf-like box that burps out of the wall eight feet from the floor. However, perhaps most importantly, it looks like the bathrooms have gotten a necessary facelift – clean, fresh new tiling, functioning urinals and a stall door that locks.
5. The music is one of the main attractions. It’s a DJ-heavy affair with Dave P and Sean Agnew plugging in talent on the decks. The music’s that ideal kind of electronic dance and house music that’s highly listenable at 1am when you’re seven servings deep. It’s reminiscent, naturally, of parties like Snacks and Making Time but without the indoor cigarette smoking. Philadelphians looking to get their ecstasy-fueled rave on have found a new goldmine. The surprisingly large dancefloor must accommodate at least 150-200 party boys and girls.
6. The argument has to be made: This is a well-calculated and strategic cash grab at the hordes of hipsters living in a ten-block radius of this new giant in night life. And you know what? Can you actually hate? This place is like a bigger and better Barbary smack dab in the heart of South Philly’s tattooed, smoking, leather-wearing masses. There’s nothing quite like it even remotely close. This summer those bartenders and this company are, in all likelihood, going to be hoovering hipster dollars into their pockets and bank accounts.
7. Not gonna lie to you, Wednesday was super-packed and a bit patience-testing to get a drink. And that’s fine! But folks came OUT for the opening night and that can only be a good sign. We’d like to assume that the rest of the Dolphin’s SoPhil residency won’t be so bombarded by sheer numbers. Thursday’s crowd was already thinner. And less bro-y; yeah, there were moments of the opening night that felt a little Old City-like.
8. We even got to chat with Sean Agnew, who shared the vision of the place – a chill beer and cocktail lounge until 10pm, when it turns into a great and lively dance destination with DJs lined up six nights a week. Doesn’t seem like there’s any food, just liquids, and a pretty simple program of cans, drafts, shots, and cocktails.
9. The crowd hanging around outside the entrance inhabits a large swath of Broad Street sidewalk. Smokers and drunks are going to be an endless source of entertainment to longtime residents and South Philadelphia generationals. It’s hard not to deny that they look like a bunch of hipsters – or just young people trying to look hip. These are not derogatory observations. It’ just clear that the Dolphin’s going to color the neighborhood in new ways, for better or worse.
10. This shit is exciting.