If the human year to dog year ratio is 1-to-7, then human years to bar years has got to be like 1-to-450. You know it's hard out there for a publican, especially in a city like Philadelphia, where competition can be heavy and tastes can be fickle. There aren't too many establishments out there that have logged 10 years while remaining relevant to the discourse throughout, but South Philadelphia Tap Room is definitely one of them.
When John Longacre opened SPTR at 15th and Mifflin in 2003, immersing himself in beer-bar culture wasn't even his primary goal. Primarily a developer, he had long been interested in the neighborhood north of Snyder, south of Washington west of Broad and east of 18th — it seemed geographically poised for an influx of new residents and business owners, but was stuck in stasis.
On his radar since Longacre's days as a commerce department intern in Ed Rendell's City Hall, the 'hood that's now referred to as Newbold seemed like it was in need of a commercial kickstart. "I thought putting a business that didn't seem to belong there, necessarily, would help ignite a little interest in the area," he says. "That's how we got started."
Longacre says SPTR was built as a "a social hub for civic activity — [garnering] neighborhood support and pushing initiatives to revitalize the neighborhood." But it soon opened up into a draw of its own, building a sharp craft-beer approach. The food side of the operation grew a little slower, but it started earning serious looks once chef Scott Schroeder grabbed the wheel in 2008. Nowadays, "we get everything from 21-year-old hipsters to 58-year-old suburban dudes from Jersey," Longacre says of the clientele.
Beginning this Friday, SPTR will launch 72 hours of anniversary festivities, beginning with a throwback evening this Friday, Oct. 18. Expect appearances of old draft lists, old regulars, old employees and old menu items (Schroeder promises a PETA-friendly rendition of the infamous lion dish served before his time). There will also be a SPTR-themed Quizzo, hosted by chef de cuisine Mark Regan and his kitchen cohort Johnny Dolo.
On Saturday, they're going a crowd-pleasing route with a line of specialty burgers and IPAs from breweries like Russian River, Green Flash and Stone. Finally, on Sunday, Oct. 20, Schroeder will unveil SPTR's brand-new menu starting at 5 p.m. Here's to 10 years.