U Bar, Formerly Uncles, Opens

A sharp upgrade had people out in droves for the grand opening last night

Let there be light - new windows open up on Camac Street (photos by G Philly)

Uncles at Locust and Camac Street has been an institution in Philadelphia. But when Stephen Carlino and Dennis Fee took over the corner bar a few years ago, the regulars worried that changes would be coming. But the men – owners of Tavern on Camac – have spent the last few months turning the dated neighborhood watering hole into a much sleeker space with great lighting and renovated bathrooms, not to mention the most obvious change: floor-to-ceiling windows on the Camac side that not only open to the street, but also somehow make the intimate space feel that much bigger.

Along with the architectural and design changes, the bar also experienced a naming one. Uncles (always a little creepy sounding in our book) is now being called U Bar. And when the doors first opened yesterday, regulars and curious neighborhood denizens packed the place.

U Bar's opening night saw its share of regulars and new friends

Carlino greeted bar patrons – we spotted everyone from Tammy Sortman and Franny Price, to Brent Kintzing and John Stanley, plus a parade of old regulars who have made this place home for many years.

And while Carlino tells us that a few finishing touches are still in the works – like new bar seating – the open windows are a reminder of how far the LGBT community has come. And it’s a trend with other nightspots, too, like Woody’s (the first gay bar in Philly to even have windows) which also tore down its walls to create a fresh, open-air space.

Last night at U Bar, the same generation who was cheering with cocktails and beers might also remember a time in Philly’s own not-too-distant history when gay bars were taboo and there was scarcely a sign advertising them, let alone a window into them.