Written by Nick Hopton
“Meet Me On South Street”
The city of Philadelphia, a sprawling, vast embodiment of the music scenes across America, has long been a lighthouse to the artists and bands that travel across these great lands in search of the dream. The dream that all musicians have when they play their first notes. The dream of stardom, the dream of making it., the dream of being a goddamn rockstar.
Green Day. Tool. Rage Against The Machine. Pearl Jam. Nirvana. Sunblaze Lane (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
These legendary bands, along with countless others that have made their mark in music history, got some of their first shots at glory in a beat-up, old bar on South Street. J.C Dobbs, originally opened in 1975, was the first stop and was the stomping grounds for many of the first tours that major bands have made across the US. The venue itself has always had a South Philly feel about it, and a very simple one at that. A cramped stage, reeking of stale beer and sweat. A light and sound system that did JUST enough to make you feel like you were playing in an arena, rather than your bar down the street. A bar and a staff that always greeted you with a smile and a drink but wouldn’t hesitate to toss your ass through the front door if you caused any issues.
It was simple. It was home. It was rock and roll.
Over the years, numerous owners would come in and take over, but miraculously the essence and vibe of Dobbs always survived. It was always that bar you would meet up at when you got into the city to catch a quick gig, or to end the night after seeing a bigger show down the street at the TLA. But in October of 2015, Dobbs closed its doors and said goodbye with a four-sentence social media post. All those years of hellacious evenings and hungover mornings… poof. Gone. Just like the magic that conjured them inside the hallowed walls erected decades before. No more meet-ups, no more nights… no more music.
Flash forward to January 2021. Ron Dangler and Angelo Rullo were on the prowl through the Southeast Pennsylvania region looking for a potential venue to bring their vision of a new music venue to life. After a few swings and misses on various locations around the area, their real estate agent told them he had something that might pique their interest. They hopped in the car and ended up out front of the once mythical J.C Dobbs, now reduced to a relic and a shell of its former self.
The excitement immediately hit Dangler, a former patron of the previous iteration, who knew right away what kind of project he would be taking on. “I knew that if we decided on this place, it would have to be done right. No bullshitting around, no cutting corners. Dobbs has way too much history for us to come in and blow it.” The decision was made, and the team moved forward with the task to re-create and evolve Dobbs into something new and exciting, while also holding true to its roots.
While a major remodel is underway (and nearly finished at the time of this writing), expect a lot of the same from Dobbs, but brought forward into the modern age. Gone is the upstairs’ stage, and is replaced with a DJ booth, pool tables, TVs wrapped around the walls, and a new laid-back atmosphere that caters to a much larger crowd than previous versions. Downstairs? Don’t worry because yes, that stage is still there. While the bar and surrounding areas have been updated, that old South Philly feel is still there. More space has been allocated for patrons to move around and shake their asses a bit, while also adding hybrid seating areas that are easily moveable to cater to certain times of the day and special events.
Rock and roll will always be a staple of the music choice at the venue, but Dangler wants to invite everyone and everything that Philly has to offer to come to perform. Teaming up with DVT Entertainment, they plan on opening the doors and the hallowed stage to all different genres of music to really give the city its Everyday Mecca of Music. Different nights produce different themes, as do different times of day (Acoustic Country Sunday Brunch followed by a Punk Rock Happy Hour, anyone?). “We wanted to re-invent what this bar was all about, while also not losing sight of its history. Something that everyone will enjoy no matter the day or night.”
While the official opening date is still up in the air (owners are hoping to kick the doors open in late August / early September), the excitement is already building around the city and surrounding suburban areas. The day the word broke that Dobbs was returning, Dangler received hundreds of messages of support and enthusiasm for taking the project on and re-igniting the fire. Support is also building from other venues and businesses around the area as well, eager to see the landmark welcome guests once again, as it only can help bring the entire music scene back to the forefront.
With the past few years taking away so many venues from us, and in turn, really hitting the local music scene hard to see one opening back up is not only a breath of fresh air. It’s an entirely new life. Very soon, we will be able to walk through those big red doors again, grab a drink, and settle in for a night of old-school fun. Very soon, we’ll again be able to say, “Meet me at Dobbs On South.”
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