NIKOLAI FOX'S BLOG
A New, Local, Custom Demolition & Renovation Service Turns Fancy but Failing Parlors and Lounges into Dive Bars
above: R2RR's recent modifications to the beer garden at what was Northern Liberties posh but failing 'Sauzuziz' - soon to be rebranded as a hip dive called 'The Sauce'.
Philadelphia, Spring, 2015
Running any type of ‘venue’ that serves alcoholic beverages is a difficult task, which requires a combination of talent, business savy, commitment and luck. Inevitably, some venues will have trouble surviving and thriving. Currently, the trend of dive bars is sweeping the city, and venue operators who have aimed their investment and cultivated their ambience to the higher brow, may find themselves frustrated with the lack of clientele, while ancient watering holes who haven’t changed the mop water since Rocky IV are raking it in.
Luckily for these upscale venues, there is a new service in town, ready to assist desperate and unfortunate entrerpeneurs. They are changing the fate of destitute parlors and sipping stations into cash-over-the-bar profit generating community centers - and they say they can do it in only one weekend.
Riches to Rags Renovations is the side business of a local group of hard working carpenters and demolition experts, who understand that sometimes you have to get back to basics in order to connect with the people who know the real thing when they see it. R2RR, specializes is custom ‘derenovations’, turning your upscale establishment into a legitimate dive bar - in only 72 hours.
“We can actually do it in an afternoon, structurally . . . ‘, say Richie LaMontagne (one of the demo experts on the crew) but for the atmosphere to be right, the whole place has to be coated with a slightly fermented patina of canned beer and Yager, and it has to sit through a cycle of cold and hot temperatures like in the summer when the air conditioning breaks sometimes. We want the place to be sticky when we’re done, sticky like you could NEVER mop it up.”
“The owners are in disbelief when we get through with a place.’ says Johnny ‘The Rack’ Positano. Johnny is first on the scene when R2RR takes a new client. ‘They’re just besides themselves . . . ,’ he continues, ‘. . . when they see what we’ve unleashed on their pussy little project. Sometimes they even breakdown in tears. But we really just feel like we’re giving back - you know, helping to keep an important part of Philly culture alive by offering our unique service.”
“It’s like a total reset for a place that’s just not working for this town.’ elaborates Positano. “Before we even throw a trash can through a window, we christin the place by rounding up some of the boys from the neighborhood and closin’ it down on one of the busiest nights of the week. We call it the extermination. It’s important to scare off anybody who felt comfortable in the bar’s current atmosphere if you want some real clients to feel welcome. Like I said, TOTAL reset.”
“Yeah.” added, Chok, another demolition expert on the team.
Considering that Playboy magazine recently published a review of the best 10 dive bars in Philly, it seems like R2RR is right on the money, leveling the playing field for first time and experienced venue owners who are competing with establishments who have been cultivating their atmosphere for generations.
“There’s a real commitment in this town to authenticity, ‘ relates Marsha Sableman, a drink critique for Philly Weekly. ‘I didn’t believe R2RR could pull it off in a town that takes it’s dives bars so seriously, but the first time I walked into one of their projects my jaw dropped. I was fucking hammered by 10am and I can’t remember what happened after that. Now that’s Philly.”
“It’s amazing how much credibility is given to a place just by pissing in all the sinks.’ relates Vince (who asked that his full name not be used in this article. ‘The kids can’t stay away from places like this. You gotta give em credit, they know the real thing when they see it.” R2RR is currently booking derenovations for 2016, as their 2015 schedule is full, and if you’re worried about the legality of the modifications and the conditions of your liquir license, “Don’t be.” says Positano. “I got a guy.”
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