John Klein, the well-bearded barman behind Bella Vista’s aptly named The Dive, is readying his second South Philly venture Watkins Drinkery for a Friday opening. The process has been anything but a smooth ride, Klein told Grub Street. In the two-and-a-half years since he first tried to enter an agreement of sale for the former Bella Rosa II, he says he’s butted heads with everyone from City Councilman Frank DiCicco’s office and the East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association to PLCB and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office. All this opposition and drama stems from the former owner’s indictment — along with 12 others — in “Operation Ticket Broker,” a cocaine operation that allegedly moved more than 35 kilos of cocaine from the bar over the past seven years.
After a long battle, Klein has triumphed and will realize his dream on Friday. The new watering hole and restaurant features a ten seat bar, three high-top tables and six other tables downstairs. Six taps and a beer engine will pour mostly local and craft beers. Watkins Drinkery will also have an impressive bottle list. A pool table, 80s vintage video games and a small, six-seat bar will be upstairs. Klein hired John Morris as chef. His resume boasts of stints at Phoenixville’s Black Lab Bistro, Fairmount’s Urban Saloon and Center City’s Devil’s Alley. The kitchen will serve what Klein calls “usual pub fare with some surprising twists” daily from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. The rest of the Drinkery’s staff have been plucked from Amada, Khyber, Devil’s Den, and P.O.P.E.
Watkins Drinkery, 1712 S. 10th St., (215) 339-0175