New York City. Up until like 2000 give or take a few weeks, Philly was NYC’s lame-o cousin and dishwater doppelganger, The City That Never Sleeps vs. The City That Pretty Much Slept Solidly After 8 PM What From That Ritually Exclusive Carbo Loading Diet of Greasy Cheesesteaks and Doughy-But-Leaden Soft Pretzels.
You know the end of that sad east coast story, though: Philly caught up to NYC in every way, even often surpassing it.
Our restaurants are better and more diverse. Our theater is more personal. Our indie music scene is funkier. Now, as of this week in particular, NYC trails us high and wide – sometimes in instances more ruinously tragic than others.
One comparison I’m looking at? Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Following in the footsteps of our very own Mr. Softee, Larry Krasner, the newly-in-place Bragg is ready to go on a lawless program of instructing his prosecutors to stop looking for jail time and prison sentences for many crimes and downgrading felony charges in cases such as armed robberies and drug dealing (well, what drugs are we talking?). For everyone in New York still thinking of moving to Philly like a bunch of you did during Covid’s great migration, think again. Just like that old dumb joke about a bar at closing time: You can’t stay home, but you definitely don’t want to come here and stay either. See you in Connecticut.
Eve Guest Appearance
It’s going to be hard for Philly’s women of hip hop to top the Jill Scott sex tape rumors on social media. But Philadelphia actor and rapper Eve – the first lady of the Ruff Ryders – is doing her levelheaded best what with a rare guest appearance on any record not her own on DJ/producer Paul Oakenfold’s new Shine On album which also features Aloe Blacc, CeeLo Green, and Azealia Banks.
Kanella’s New Owner
The Jefferson Hospital area’s fave Mediterranean BYOB hot spot, 10th and Spruce’s Kanella, just got a new owner in Tayfun Abuska. Yes, the always familiar and hands-on Konstantinos Pitsillides left in December, and Abuska will carry on the kabob tip. I would yell “Opa,” but you’d only confused it with another Greek-Mediterranean restaurant several blocks away.
Benefit for Philadelphia Clef Club
For the love and aid of the Philadelphia Clef Club – that glass front, 70s-designed tower of cool on Broad Street that’s housed some of this city’s finest live jazz showcases and educational events – Chris’ Jazz Café will host some of the area’s finest players (Orrin Evans, Immanuel Wilkins, etc.) gathering, in person and virtually, for a charitable live party on January 13 at 7 pm.
Vax Mandates and Closures
Several pretty much legendary Philly locations are either already closed or closing or closed by the time you finish this sentence. For those of you digging shoo fly pies, pot roast sandwiches, and fresh Scrapple by the yard stick’s length, Mose Smucker’s Amish-oriented The Grill at Smucker’s at Reading Terminal just shuttered its stand. Reason? Not enough of a customer base now that the city’s triple vaccine mandate on food establishments is keeping the non-vaxxed bacon-egg-n-cheese sandwiches at bay. Weird that if you sit in the Terminal’s court, you have to be vaccinated, but you can wander around and shop all day but don’t need vaxxing. Eh?
Then there’s Walnut-at-Rittenhouse’s near-50-year-old Wonderland head shop which is closing at the top of February. Always a great place for bongs and vitamin B cut for cocaine, owner Michael Katz has mentioned the pandemic, 2020’s summer of looting and broken windows, and the lack of downtown customers ever since those two unfortunate plagues for shuttering.
Oh, and then there is the little matter of Kenney and the city’s taking down of all of 13th Street’s Midtown Village Gayborhood outdoor streeteries, starting now and lasting through part of the summer due to planned utility work. But that shouldn’t really hurt restaurateurs and food workers desperately clinging to life, business, dignity, and money, right?
And yes, Philadelphia. We lost James Mtume and Bob Saget on Sunday. Yes. Everything is really fucked up, Philly. Everything.
Speaking of MidGayTownHoodVillage and really fucked up, didn’t DJ Pauly D from MTV’s Jersey Shore host an opening of Sugar Factory Philadelphia, hanging by the candy wall and over-sampling the gelato bar? Is this weird or am I just fussy?
MASKED PHILLY: Tracy Hardy
In Icepack’s way-too-long, way-overly-complex-and-continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities what they’ve been up to, beyond the pale, during C-19 – from lock down to the current re-opening, present-day un-masking and re-masking, worrying about Delta variants, freaking out about Fauci’s call for a potential third round of vax shots a mere five months after the last, new mask and vax card mandates, ignored or not ignored (I mean why did I wait in line at the Convention Center if you’re not asking to see my card?), the possibility of mix-and-matching vaccines which is weird, AND NOW, YEAH OF COURSE, the whole worldwide B.1.1.529 Omicron variant scare, so welcome to ROUND THREE, I reached out, this week, to Tracy Hardy.
Hardy and Damon Roye are the team behind Lou & Choo’s Lounge, West Hunting Park Avenue’s legendary, large-scale big hearty food and bigger cocktails saloon and restaurant with a new tiki bar, a new garden/patio, an arcade, and a designated cigar bar which re-invigorated its design and post-Covid (well, as much of a pandemic is actually post) reopened at the end of 2021.
When asked what occurred in Hardy’s life during Covid’s slowdown beyond the pale, Tracy responded with something more spiritual and life affirming than usual.
“I prioritized and rebuilt and focused on building my relationships with my family and friends while developing new business ventures,” he said. “I wanted to highlight mine and the business’ involvement in the community, to spread hope.”
As far as the mask goes, not only does Hardy wear the the N95, Tracy gave out N95 masks, rubber gloves, and Bio-Nest hand sanitizer to members of the 39th Police District and the 5th Police District, Fire Department 59, Ladder 18, principals and teachers in their school district, and the city’s Democratic ward leaders for their area.
When it comes to the vax, Hardy says, “I understand the distrust of our community in getting the vax because historically they have used disenfranchised people as test dummies. Therefore, community leaders need to educate and explain the vax a lot more to our community to build trust. As a business owner, it is another hurdle to our business. I am vaxxed and encourage others because this is a universal problem and we all have to do our part.”
“That said, I don’t like the fact that the city has put another burden on our already struggling business to check vaccination cards. We’re already losing money in the hardest-hit industry in the city, what with being over-taxed. It’s just more for us to handle and still try and pay our staff and bills.”
All this, and Lou & Choo’s Lounge is not only carrying on, but improving, adding all of the aforementioned building/design amenities as well as bringing in Chef Bruce Palmer, of Bruce’s Big Sea Sandwiches, with a new menu of seafood and soul food dishes. “We’re also marketing our history and vibe to attract more tourists, are putting together our Day of Service for MLK Day, and will stay true to my promise of being entrenched in the community and giving back.”