The Economic Development Potential Of The Local Watering Hole

<p>A newspaper beer columnist writes that a good local bar is not just a place for drinks and socializing, it can attract business too.</p>
May 2, 2008, 1pm PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"One of these days, some smart, urban-planning scholar is going to publish a study on the role of beer in attracting new people to the city. Until then, we'll have to rely on anecdotes like this one:

The dude's name is Tyler Hays, 39, originally from Oregon but more recently of New York, where he's president of a Soho furniture company called BDDW...Most of the pieces are constructed by hand at a studio in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. But the company has been growing and needed more space. So last year, Hays found himself nosing around on a real estate Web site, hunting for cheap buildings in Brooklyn.

"I came across this one building in Philly that looked pretty good," he remembered..."I Mapquested it and discovered, man, it's only an hour-and-a-half away. I climbed into my car and drove straight to Philly."

The building was in Port Richmond, tucked among rowhouses just off of Richmond Avenue. Big and ugly and vacant, it was previously a commercial printing shop that produced cereal boxes, among other products.

"A dump," Hays said.

He drove around, wondering if he'd wasted the trip...[but] somehow, he found himself walking through the front door of Johnny Brenda's...[a bar with with] a superb, local tap list, very good, affordable Mediterranean dishes, a laid-back dining room, an upstairs music venue...a sidewalk sculpture for locking up bikes, a handmade iron railing, the painted tin ceiling, the hipster bartenders, a stack of community fliers by the door, a guy playing old records on a turntable, comfortable lighting, a red-felt pool table, well-scuffed linoleum floors and tattooed locals."

"Hays drank his beer and bought the building. Two of his employees quickly followed and now the three share a house on Thompson Street in Fishtown. When the workshop is at capacity, it will employ at least 30.

New jobs, new taxpayers - all because of a bar."

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Published on Friday, May 2, 2008 in The Philadelphia Daily News
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