Brendan Olkus - the longtime Philly-bred DJ/artist known as Brendan BringEm - is embarking on what he calls the next phase of his life.
At 38, with backing from his mother, Sherry, Olkus has opened a corner bar called The Saint at 102 W. Girard Ave. (Front Street and Girard Avenue), beneath the Market-Frankford El on the Northern Liberties-Fishtown border. It used to be a shot-and-a-beer called Wonder Years, and the building itself was the St. Lazarus Hotel.
The Saint, he explains, is a work in progress. And though there is a DJ booth, "it's not a nightclub or a dance club. It's fun and relaxed. I want it to be atmospheric, where you can come and hear good tunes and have good drinks." In fact, he's giving up his DJ name, which was given to him years ago.
Olkus' previous stop was 19th and Chestnut Streets at a short-lived club called Emmaline.
He looks at The Saint as a literal bridge between the more refined bars of Northern Liberties and the grittier establishments of Fishtown.
Front and Girard is like home for Olkus, who worked nearby as a kid and went to Bodine High four blocks away.
Olkus said he started first on the barroom itself, turning back the clock many decades to "make it look like it always looked like this. I asked myself, 'What would this place have looked like the '30s? How close can I get to restoring it without going over the top?"
It's dim with subway tiles and many found objects. Lights were fashioned out of old radiator covers. He added a second beer cooler. and decorated it to look like a twin of the existing one. The "tin ceiling" was an art project. Rather than spend $100 a square foot on reclaimed tin ceiling, Olkus bought textured wallpaper, metallic paint and urethane. The process turned it into a hard sheet, which he hung like panels.
Next step is the kitchen, which will serve Creole cuisine, perhaps in a cafeteria setup.
Eventually, the building's third floor will become a bed-and-breakfast, he said.