The Village Pourhouse: Raising The Bar To The Next Level

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In the old days of Hoboken, it was easy to just buy a bar, fix it up, get a few beers on tap, hire cute girls to work at the bar, and get the rake out to pile up those loads of cash.

Today, however, the "Hot Bar of the Moment" has a shelf life of only a few months. Remember 3 Forty Grill? Trinity? Quays? The Chandelier Room at The W Hotel? All once reigned as the "HBotM" in Hoboken, and the title currently belongs to The Wicked Wolf.

One of the next contenders to the crown appear to be The Village Pourhouse, opening at 205 First Street. Originally the site of O'Donoghues, it has been bought by the primary investors, Sean McGarr & Michael Sinensky, of the two Village Pourhouses in New York, located at 928 Amsterdam and 64 3rd Avenue. Hoboken's is one of two new bars by the owners, with the other bar opening up on 366 W 46th St in Manhattan.

I must admit the bar brought back memories. O'Donoghues was once the king of all Hoboken bars back in the mid 90's. Take Black Bear, Green Rock and Whiskey Bar combine them into one bar and you had OD's. Now, looking around, I saw the ghosts of my memories linger in a few corners, I would remember wanting to get to the bar after Seinfeld to listen to the Grateful Dead cover band - was it "Box Of Rain"?

I had a chance to meet with one of the minority owners, Rob Gebhardt, over the weekend, who gave me an inside tour of the newly renovated property. I told him my "HBotM Theory" of how bars are popular when they first open in town, and how they eventually are just replaced by the next bar that opens a few months later.

"We aren't a group of guys who suddenly decided to open a bar. We have a history in this business. We know how to make a successful bar, that's part of the community and adjusts to what the neighborhood wants. The two bars in the city are both next to NYU and Columbia. They are sports bars designed for that community. If you look over our theme nights, we want each night to be a 'destination bar' for different interests from whole town.", Rob told me as we sat in the "The Sky Box" lounge section of the bar.

Rob showed off the various quadrants that the bar was designed. There are four different zones, each with their own sound system. Around the bar are 27 HDTVs, and they have about twelve "Sounddog Wireless Audio" boxes. The Sounddogs give patrons sitting at a table the ability to listen to any of the HDTVs in the bar. So, for example, if one zone of the bar has the Giants game on, you can listen to the Colts game with your friends at the table.

The various sections of the bar are referred as the party rooms. When first entering The Pourhouse, the rectangle mahogany bar dominates the western side of the front room which was designed to embrace the old Irish heritage of O'Donoghues, along with a sports memorabilia case and flickering gas lamps. There will be assorted tables along the wall to sit, along with 8 HDTVs.

The Dugout, near the south end of the floor, was designed to host two separate booths that can seat 6-8 people or one big booth for 12-16 patrons. HDTVs frame both sides of The Dugout, to give patrons control of what they want to watch. They were specially designed for comfort and utility - each leather banquettes has their own pullout drawers to store purses or light coats.

The Red Light Room is the eastern section of the bar, which can be designed to have its own bartender and sound for groups up to 90 people. They have 8 HDTVs in this section also. Plus, there is a "private entrance" for people hosting parties, to avoid the lines outside.

The Sky Box is situated in the southern end, where the old stage used to be, replaced with raised leather banquettes, a small separate private bar, and open area which can be used for additional tables or open space. 7 HDTVs are scattered around this zone, and there's a skylight, hence the name, which allows natural light to shine in from the roof, or can be shut to reduce glare. The southern wall also has a high definition projector to show special events like the Super Bowl, NCAA tournament or boxing.

"Having the various sections of the bar gives the Village Pourhouse the ability to be fluid.", Rob told me. "You can have in one section some parents with their kids and in another section can gave a crowd of Yankees fans watching baseball."

Kids? I asked Rob that one of the reputations that the other Pourhouses had was that they were a frat-bar hangout. Was that their plan? I noted that the Flip Cup Guys were signed on to have Thursday nights at The Village Pourhouse, did he expect parents to bring their kids to the bar while those tournaments were going on?

"We recognize that we have a community here of diverse interests. From stay-at-home parents during the weekdays to the typical young bar crowd you get on a Thursday-Friday-Saturday. We aren't interested in being a frat bar. Both of the owners are parents, and have children. Part of our strategy here is to be inclusive. When parents come here, kids under five eat free. Now, do I expect parents to be here on Flip Cup night? Maybe. The design of the bar, the sound system and the various seating areas, gives us the flexibility to be almost four bars in one.", Rob explained.

Looking over the weekly events, they did take into account various interests besides the Flip Cup crowd on Thursdays. There was karaoke night on Wednesday. Taco Night on Tuesday. Saturday college football and Sunday NFL football (with breakfast bingo!). They also plan to be open for European football on Saturday & Sunday mornings.

Plus with the 2nd floor kitchen renovated, they will be offering an exclusive menu. I told Rob that some bars open up with much fanfare, with an executive chef, and two months later the chef leaves and replaced with a much cheaper and not as skilled labor in the kitchen.

"No way. Not here. Each Village Pourhouse has one chef who is trained by our chef in the city. We want to be consistent. If you ate in a Pourhouse in the city, we want you to be able to come to Hoboken, order from our menu and get the same delicious meal you ordered in the city. We aren't trying to be anything but normal good American pub food, but do add a little twist on our menu. For example, the Lamb Burgers are outstanding."

I asked him if they really had 130 beers available. What if I wanted to sample them?

"We have flights of beer here.", Rob told me, "From the beers on tap & we will open a bottle and that's part of the flight service."

What about proper glassware? Rob nodded and showed off the various kinds of glasses, each for a different brand of beer. I asked to make sure the Guinness was on nitrous tap, separate from the rest of the beer. It was.

I was impressed. I asked about the owner situation here. Sean McGarr and Michael Sinensky were primary owners, along with the previous owner of O'Donoghues and a few other minority owners, like himself, who all had a vested interest in making sure the bar works. Rob told me that all the employees from OD's were offered jobs to come back, and it appears that Vinny and Janine, along with the bouncers would be returning. All the new servers and bartenders are specially trained by the management to give service with a smile. Even stenciled on one of the walls is "[insert phrase here]"

I must admit I did walk into the interview a bit skeptical. After reading a few comments on Yelp.com about the Village Pourhouse I was afraid that this was going to be another frat-kid bar. Certainly seems like it will have some of that, but also appears to be a very welcome addition to the downtown neighborhood, which has a had a few recent renovated pubs, but The Village Pourhouse just raised the bar to the next level. It would be a shame to just call it a sports bar. I would surmise to say The Village Pourhouse is primed to become THE sports bar to which all other so-called sports bars in Hoboken will be measured.

May the best bar win.

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on November 1, 2010 12:56 AM.

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