Underground Arts Getting A Bar (And Maybe A Kitchen)

At his Underground Arts space, in the basement of the Wolf building, located at 12th and Callowhill, Cornell-, Penn-, and Wharton- trained architect and real estate developer Gary Reuben, is developing a venue unlike any other in Philadelphia.

As early as late November, the new Arts Bar will be there to accompany performances in the 11,000-square-foot UA location with food and booze.

A month or two after its opening, Reuben said he plans for the venue to host shows from cabaret to comedy, music, poetry, spoken word, theater, dance, storytelling and other performances-based arts every night of the week–something that’s sorely needed in Philly, with it scores of talented artists.

Throughout September and October, Rueben and his team of promoters and foodies from around the city will be meeting to determine the details of the menu. Right now, he’s not sure just how the food will work. Depending on ideas and zoning, there might be a kitchen on-site, or they may appeal to an established local chef who could prepare food off-site or develop a menu for the space.

“Who knows,” Reuben said. “Maybe Jose Garces will be interested.”

According to Reuben, one thing’s for sure though: “We believe in letting it grow organically, by seeing what the clientele wants and responding.”

In terms of seating and space, “We could do anything we wanted really given the size of the space,” said Reuben. That means the possibility of partitioning off a sit-down section or, if the theme is more of a cabaret style, the Arts Bar could seat more than 200. During the recent Fringe Festival, for example, as many as 300 people were crammed into Underground Arts.

The Live Arts space is dedicated to hosting quality entertainment. Reuben started it two years ago when his son, a theater major, graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. While artists prepare for a show at the space, they can live rent-free. This way, they collect all of the door money.

“It’s really a way to give artists a place to make a living,” Reuben said.

Now all that has to be decided is how to make the food match the programming.

Underground Arts [Official website]

Photo from “A Series Of Tests,” courtesy Underground Arts

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Sue Smith

    What a blowhard!
    As a resident of that building I do not want a restaurant, the mice are bad enough, let alone the possibility (and probability!) of rats.

  • Jane Doe

    In response to “Sue Smith” on September 22, 2001

    As another resident of this building, I could not disagree with your comments more. I have lived in this building for over a year now and have yet to see a single rodent of any kind in my apartment, I’ve seldom even seen a harmless bug. Additionally Sue, welcome to planet earth, and living in a large urban area, mice exist and that does not speak to the cleanliness of the building, it’s an inevitability. I have plenty of friends who pay much more to live in “posh” center city apartments and have way more bug/rodent problems than I ever have. Gary and the management of the building do an impeccable job and have been nothing short of courteous and accommodating to my needs.

    Additionally, I think the restaurant concept for the building is a great idea. It will likely breathe much needed life in to our developing neighborhood.