Phoodie Exclusive: The Who And The What Of Stephen Starr’s Fishtown Bier Garten


Via Google Street view, the site of Starr’s proposed Bier Garten, which sources say he’d like to open by this summer.

We’ve been hearing tell that Stephen Starr has been snooping around Fishtown for a while now, checking out the neighborhood as the possible site for a number of cogs in his ever-growing empire — variously, there have been rumors of a Stella here, a catering kitchen, and finally, the most developed idea, a new concept that he’s calling Bier Garten. According to our sources, developer Roland Kassis (of Domani Developers, who are said to be working on the project with Starr) met with a group of Fishtown Neighbors last night to discuss said Bier Garten. Here’s what we’ve been able to learn:

· The proposed Bier Garten site would be literally across the street from Johnny Brenda’s, beginning next to the Acropolis Diner (at Frankford and Girard) and spanning approximately 100 yards towards Frankford and Thompson. (See photo above.)
· In traditional German style, it would be a true bier garten, with about 250 seats, both indoor and outdoor. However, as our tipster points out, “the drawings look like you might expect of a Stephen Starr restaurant.”
· Kitchen would be open until 11PM; bar would stay open until 2AM. No exact details on cuisine just yet, but damned if we can’t smell mock-ironic kielbasa on the wind already.
· A formal zoning hearing will occur toward the end of February — and trust us, we’ve been to these Fishtown zoning meetings, and it’s going to be a goddamned NIMBY circus — so good luck with all of that…
· … especially considering that the developer is looking to fast track this one and get it open by the summer. According to our sources, financing and other agreements are already secure; zoning would be the last part of the puzzle and, if granted, construction would begin almost immediately.

We’ll be keeping you posted on this one. And we promise to you now: We will only use the headline “BRAT WORST” once.

  • Poster Nutbag

    if these dumbfuck neighbors have a problem, they should check out radegast in williamsburg, brooklyn. no, this is not an endorsement of williamsburg, but it is a good example of how awesome a good beer garden can be.

  • Annie

    Doesn’t that side of the street make it NoLibs, not Fishtown?

  • http://philebrity.com tips

    No, it’s on the other side.

  • Annie

    Also? I’m hoping it’s going to be more like Astoria’s Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden. http://www.facebook.com/search/?q=Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden&init=quick#/photo.php?pid=3741722&id=181009723384

  • Matt

    Actually, I was at the neighborhood meeting, and people were generally for it, with the only real concerns being noise and parking. That doesn’t mean that the zoning board won’t swat it out of the sky, but this has momentum, and last night’s meeting seemed to be geared toward rallying support.
    The name on the facade read BIERGARTEN in typical one-word-per-concept-because-our-words-are-like-legos German styling, but we’ll see what he settles on. The general look if it was again, very Stephen Starr like all the other Todd Oldham-looking places he owns, and pretty huge.

  • Lawrence

    Is it the white building, or the taller building further down that’s being proposed? If memory serves me correctly, that brown brick building and the space around it used to be a brewery… the old Proto brewery?

  • http://frantic.org mike

    Something odd about that spot, though — KD Financial Services JUST opened a new office in that space (per the all-caps announcement at http://fishtown.us/node/15190, plus I’ve seen the signage when walking past there to the El). Is it possible it’s the space next to it (with the two garage doors) or even further down the block, the 5-story building in the background of that picture?

  • gabbage

    Why are they dumbfuck neighbors? Does a neigborhood not have a right to choose what they think is best for their community versus what recently relocated people want for drinking and entertainment? I am not knocking the idea of a beer garden but if it does not go thur its not necessarily bad. Maybe its a matter of the flood gates being recently opened in this neighborhood and the generations of people who have lived there forever seeing this as just another means to a potential end of Girard Ave looking like South St, complete with dumb t-shirt stores, an obligatory Condom Nation and dozen or so sneaker stores that sell the same air force one (spoiler: I know the fishtowner sneaker joke is coming so save it).

  • Matt

    Lawrence, It’s both the white building and the brown brick garage next to it, to be used as a mixed indoor / open roof patio layout.
    Mike, This developer did the KD financial building as well. He owns a lot of the area, but I’m not so sure that big=bad, before you get too fearful. He was talking about the awful ideas he’d turned down for the spaces that he owns, included bars that would be undeniably douchey and loud, a taxi hub, a VW repair shop, etc. He seems to want to shape the area in some at least debatably improved direction. He lives in Northern Liberties.
    Gabbage, I agree. My neighbors are simply concerned about the direction of the neighborhood. The reason that we bought houses in Fishtown is because we wanted to live here and not in Old City. There’s nothing “dumbfuck” about watching what comes into your neighborhood. I used to live near South Street, and I’ll be damned if Girard becomes another gigantic shoe / cheese steak / lingerie outlet full of cruisers and beach cops.

  • Mbk

    Does anyone know who held this meeting?

  • 3rd&Brown

    i prefer all of the empty store fronts on girard instead. and the hookers one block over under the el.

  • Dan

    Residents of Fishtown have very bad memories of trashy bars like Maui and do not want to have any more clubs like that in the neighborhood. No one wants vomit, feces, and urine on your sidewalk and steps. I’ve been to the Fishtown zoning meetings too, and generally almost all projects are approved. Just because people have concerns, it doesn’t mean they are NIMBYs. Why shouldn’t people be concerned with parking and noise? These are mostly residential neighborhoods and people like to be able to sleep through the entire night without being woken by drunks.

  • Matt

    I live in Northern Liberties and yes, I just recently moved there from the Jersey Shore, and no, it’s not like the show. I moved because of work and my wife going to school. I like that this area is not quite as city as other parts, but to have some nostalgia for the way Girard is right now is like having nostalgia for a garbage dump. It might have been nice years ago, but now it’s so filled with trash it’s sickening to walk down. It seems to me the poeple of fishtown don’t care all that much about their neighborhood. Why are people so affraid of Gentrification, it will bring your property values up and make your neighborhood safer. I think a beer garden would be a great addition.

  • me

    wow, matt…”Why are people so affraid of Gentrification…”? that’s how you wade into this debate? you just go stampeding towards the big G word?
    the entire city has an issue with littering. the entire city has a problem with vacant storefronts (even center city). no need to single out girard ave.
    also, girard east of frankford has some pretty great stuff (jbs, ekta, copa soaps, sketch, milkcrate, dipintos, sulimay’s, that new place the side-car people are opening). a garbage dump? i call BS. sure it can be better, but the same can be said for pretty much any neighborhood.

  • Matt

    Mbk, The meeting was held in a private residence. If you live in that immediate area and want to be involved in the future, please send an email to f.towncollective at gmail.

    Other Matt, We care a lot about the neighborhood. We just don’t want to live in Old City. It’s nice to be able to walk to the piazza, but it’s also really nice to be able to walk away. For some people, it may very well be petty hipsterdom, but to echo Dan’s point, sleeping through the night and being able to park within a block of your home are some nice features. We’re just being selective about what comes in, which quite literally is caring about your neighborhood.

  • Bryant

    Why would anyone want a beer garden run by the most successful restauranteur in the city ? Clearly the Girard corridor and Fishtown would be much better served by a nail salon or two and another abandoned Roy Rogers/KFC. How about another filthy shit-selling mini mart to add even more chip wrappers to the streets and plastic bags for the trees? Maybe even a ghetto-fabulous store selling crap to idiotic human billboards! ANYTHING BUT a business that will create real jobs and be run by an organization with competence.

    Hey Steven Starr – If they can’t their heads out of their collective asses – we’d LOVE to have you in East Kensington – fat chance I know , but just sayin’….

  • Dan

    Bryant: It is my understanding the Fishtown Neighbors Association was against the Roy Rogers/KFC.

    Why do people always assume that an alternative to a Stephen Starr beer garden must be something bad. It could be a hardware store, or a Hispanic grocery, a farmers marker, a center for technology startups. It could be an architecture or design company or perhaps a doctors office. Jobs created by restaurants are not very high paying. I would much rather see businesses opening that provide high paying jobs so that educated professionals can live, work, and play in Fishtown.

  • rk

    Dan–

    you know what might make more professionals interested in living in Fishtown? A Stephen Starr beer garden (I highly doubt a Starr german beer garden will be anything like Maui was)! As much as I find his places somewhat derivative and overpriced, they are popular with the professional class.

    Problem solved. lol.

  • chris

    It’s crucial that residents have a say in the direction of their neighborhood’s development. We all have to realize however, that the change is on it’s way and the money will win. This site will inevitably be developed and judging from it’s proximity to the existing night life and future casinos, we may only have a short time with which to choose wisely what new influence we have over our neighborhood. Frankford and Girard is not exactly a cozy nook in the village of fishtown, never has been and should not be expected to be. This is an ideal location, right off of the EL which puts a huge relief on concerns of parking ( though I know does not have a huge influence on peoples choices on whether or not to drive). What should be a concern is aiding motivated local start up businesses along with influentiall entrepreneurs to get a foot hold before the influence of big money is too great.

  • Kelly

    Dan, I’m not sure if you have ever worked in a restaurant before – but believe me, staff at successful restaurants do make a good amount of money. Chefs and management can make salaries between $50-$80K/yr, and most servers and bartenders can walk home with $800-$1000 in cash by the end of the week.(Not at all restaurants, but in well executed, high volume places like most of Starr’s restaurants). To imply that restaurant workers are not educated or professionals is completely ignorant. Also, people in the industry tend to put a lot of their money back into local businesses.

  • gabbage

    Stephen Sterr is not the end all be all of Philadelphia. Its narrow minded people who think that way. It amazes me that people treat him like the re-incarnation of Will Penn, as if without him we would just roll off the map into the murkey depths of the Delaware. What I am saying as a 4th generation Fishtowners is that a mere 7 yrs ago Fishtown was a true neighborhood, cozy with a sense of community; a throwback, if you will, to what made neighborhoods great when they were full of hardworking people. The reason there is blowback to developments like this and to gentrification (Matt) is that as these developments take place the people that made this neighborhood attractive to recent transplants are being forced out. I can no longer afford my own neighborhood and my families lineage in the neighborhood may now die. Whats even more infuriating is that some of these newcomers look at us with contempt. Where do you get off. Certainly Fishtown had its lion share of problems in the past but innundating Girard or Frankford Ave with sexy bars and restaurants does not make for a better neighborhood.

  • Dan

    rk: I suspect that most people, if given the choice between being about to walk to work or having a Stephen Starr restaurant nearby would pick being able to walk to work. If a community has many businesses that provide high quality jobs then the restaurants will flock to that area.

    Kelly, I have worked in restaurants. For each chef earning 80K there are 6 dishwashers/cleaning people making minimum wage. Prep cooks may make a couple of dollars more than minimum wage, Line cooks may make 1.5x minimum wage. The majority of the jobs are low wage and have few if any benefits. Most restaurant workers can no longer afford to buy a house in Fishtown like I did 20 years ago.

    While it is nice to have good restaurants in the area, it is also nice to have businesses that provide high paying jobs with excellent benefits. I want to live in a community where software developers, accountants, architects, engineers, nurses, doctors, artists, carpenters, or any number of other occupations have an opportunity to work in Fishtown.

  • rk

    Dan–normally, the restaurant comes first, the high paying professional jobs *maybe* second (those are relatively rare jobs). the low paying jobs come first because there’s less capital costs. I’m not saying one or the other…having a high quality beer garden can help bring in these professional jobs. Setting it up as either/or is creating a false dichotomy.

  • Lems

    Sorry to be dumb, but what is a NIMBY? I’m a recent transplant (from Williamsburg, actually, and I can attest that Radegast is killer, esp. in the summer, and if this place is half as good it will be a great addition to the neighborhood). Thanks.

  • Alabaster Blue

    He is Ringo Starr’s son?

  • curt vile

    Ugh! This is the yuppieficiation of Fishtown. Artists will be pushed out of Fishtown, and obnoxious people only concerned about their property values will move in. Time to move out.

  • sonofafishmonger

    the success or failure of this enterprise turns on one detail: will they have deviled eggs?

  • Matt

    First off, there are two Matts in this thread, and I’m the one who attended the town meeting, and not the one who lives in Northern Liberties and came from Jersey Shore. I live in Fishtown, and came from Michigan because there are no jobs there.

    If people have requests for things they’d like to see in the neighborhood, I’d recommend attending the zoning meeting in late February to talk to the developer that owns so much of the vacant property. (I heard a rumor about a vet hospital, but I don’t know what else is coming.) If you want something, let your voice be heard by the people who can do something to make that happen.

    This neighborhood is changing, and it will become what we make it. My block is putting in a small park space and a mural. There are groups forming with an agenda to make Fishtown the greenest neighborhood in Philadelphia, with solar powered streetlights. Bitching on a message board will accomplish nothing. If you don’t like where things are headed, then grab the wheel. I don’t mean that like “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” I really am urging people to make this neighborhood what they want it to be, because when we sit on our hands and watch what happens, we get whatever we get.

  • Kevin
  • alan

    nimby, is it? don’t make me come’n see ya, shaggy, from scooby-do, with your peg jeans, funny hat, and fancy words.

  • optimism

    Matt from Fishtown- I completely agree with your last comment.

    I also live in Fishtown and have been here for 4 years. I am excited to hear about the new Stephen Starr possibly opening in our area. I live closer to York St, so the parking and noise issues will not effect me, but I can certainly understand the concerns of those who live within a few blocks of Frankford and Girard. I would love to see Frankford Ave and Girard Ave build up (not with multiple nail salons and convenient stores) but with nice restaurants, maybe a gym, farmers market…

    I love the ‘neighborhood’ feeling of Fishtown, and I think the location that the restaurant would be placed in is perfect, being that it is close to the El and at one of the busier intersections. I think this could be a good thing. Maybe it will bring in people who would not normally travel into Fishtown, and other local businesses with trigger their interest and they will come back and spent their money at our local shops and restaurants (Hot Potato Cafe, Sulimays, Johnny Brenda’s, Sketch Burger…)

    I believe the next Fishtown neighborhood meeting in March will have a big discussion about the restaurant. Maybe there will be a way to convince them to also add a small parking lot, so that parking isn’t too much of an issue?


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