Interstate Drafthouse

March 11, 2019
Checking in with Philly’s most “Instagram-able” craft beer bar. 
 
When Bob Ritchie and Michael McCloskey, two Fishtown natives, discovered that one of the neighborhood’s most eclectic and unique bars was going up for sale, they pounced on the opportunity, becoming first-time bar owners. Interstate Drafthouse has been a beer lover’s staple since 2011 and it’s one of Philly’s most instantly recognizable bars, due in part to its wild décor. It’s also one of the friendliest establishments in the city. Heady Times sat down with Bob and Michael to learn why this bar still feels like “a comfy pair of jeans.” 
 
Heady Times (HT): What’s Interstate Drafthouse’s history and how did you two become owners? 
 
Bob Ritchie (BR): Mike and I have known each other since grade school. We grew up in Fishtown, literally around the corner from where the bar is now located. Prior to owning this place, I was in the accounting field. I was actually the accountant for this bar. It’s been open since 2011, but we’ve owned it for about a year and a half. 
 
Mike McCloskey (MM): We looked at a lot of bars before we decided on this one. I teach at Temple, so we’ve been looking in the area. This one fell into our laps at the right time, and it was the right fit for us. 
 
HT: How did the transition take place? 
 
BR: We knew the previous owner well. He was looking to get out of the business and move on. He came to us for accounting advice. So, we talked to him about the numbers and what he’d be looking to sell the bar for. That’s when we realized this place was perfect for us. So, we pulled the trigger and bought it. 
 
HT: What’s it like to own a bar in the neighborhood you grew up in? 
 
MM: It’s fun because we get to work with our friends and serve our friends who still live in the area. But, we also love being here for the new people who’ve made Fishtown their home. We’re lucky in that Interstate Drafthouse appeals to old and new [residents]. It’s a place where they come together. Some Fishtown establishments skew one way or the other, but we get to be right in the middle, which is good for us. 
 
BR: We’re not new and shiny like some of the more recent bars in Fishtown, but we like it that way. Our kitchen is pumping out really good food and that’s something we’re very proud of. The food is a big reason we attract new customers and keep existing customers coming back. We also have one of the better tap lineups in town. It’s constantly changing, and we keep both our beer and our food prices as affordable as we can, so as far as value goes, we’re one of the best options in the neighborhood. 
 
HT: Tell me more about your beer selection… it seems like it runs the gamut. 
 
MM: It really does. Our beer list can go up against any in Fishtown. We have something for everyone here. Bob has really taken our beer selection to another level. We may be the only bar in the area that gets Heady Topper and sells it alongside Shiner Bock and Tecate.
 
BR: We want to be the bar that people can walk into and get a city-wide special, or a rare beer for $9. 
 
HT: The décor has a style all its own – what inspired this particular look? 
 
BR: We always say we live in the Instagram generation and this is a very Instagram-able bar. There’s something everywhere you look. Sometimes we decorate for Halloween and no one notices because it always looks crazy. It’s part of the draw. It’s what makes us special. We want to hold true to the vibe this bar has always had. At the end of the day, we want to be a place where people can enjoy themselves. I like to compare this place to a pair of comfy jeans. You walk in and instantly feel comfortable.
 
Interstatedrafthouse.com • 1235 E. Palmer St., Philadelphia, PA • 267-455-0045
 
 
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