“What the hell. (30 minutes later) This is the greatest place ever.” -Everyone that’s ever been there.
It was a long standing tradition for our crew to stay out late. We’re not talking the “last call, I guess it’s time to sober up and shuffle home” late. Depending on your position with nightlife, 2 A.M is the make or break hour. Bartenders will tell you, “nothing good ever happens.” Scrappy men fight to drag the last floozy off the dance floor and popped collar pissing contests spring up all over the city. Personally, I understand it as the hour that separates the rank, rotten, heinous, horrible, perverse, and crazed.
I stood by a large chain fence and rolled up my sleeves as Jayne locked the doors to her car. A cold wind picked up, dragging that familiar South Philly stink down the road. It’s the type of odor you treat like a rabid animal; don’t look it in the eye and don’t get too close. “This is BY far, my favorite place in all of Philadelphia,” said Jayne with a grin. I looked around for any signs that we were remotely close to a bar. “The hell are you taking me?” I replied. Jayne strolled across the street waving for me to follow. I knew it was wise to keep up; eyes peered at me from the dark recesses of the night.
For a split second I knew exactly where I was. I had been here before; the middle of nowhere. A single light bulb lit up a heavy brown wooden door with a camera pointed at it. There were no signs, billboards, posters, notices, banners or stickers. A tiny note that looked like it was scribbled on a cocktail napkin read, “RING DOORBELL.” I glanced over and saw a tiny white button. Jayne smiled. This button could end up being the best or worst decision I had ever made. BBBBRRRINGGGGGGGGG. An old fashioned school bell ring blared from behind the door. I nervously counted in my head.
The door quietly creaked open, cigarette smoke smacked me in the face. An older man and a poodle [or as he later introduced himself as Puff, informed me of his Bichon Frise heritage, and to never mistake him for a poodle again. I cordially apologized] greeted me with a smile. “Come on in! And can I see some identification please?” the man said still smiling. Jayne stepped forward and pat the dog on the head. “Howdy Rich!” she said handing over her I.D. I grinned and mimicked Jayne. The dog walked away disinterested in our lack of treats.
I stepped to the side as Jayne ordered a Pabst Blue Ribbon and made idol chat with the attractive blonde bartender. “Isn’t she from Mike Hans’s Dirty Wasted Thursday?” I asked. Jayne replied with a nod, handing me a glass Pabst bottle. I carefully examined it; this wasn’t something you saw everyday.
The entire building stretched far back, though the actual bar sat on your immediate left as you entered. I curiously stared at a set of metal stairs on my right, that led down into the abyss. A dimly lit stage was adjacent, leading up a smaller set of stairs into to a tabled stripper den. Saftey first. I made my way towards the back and I plopped down in a chair. The table was lit by a leg lamp locked and loaded with a red bulb. “Shit, isn’t that the lamp from Christmas Story?” I said with a nervous laugh of fear. “Isn’t this the greatest bar ever!” Jayne exploded with Joy. It was hard to wrap your head around a place like this. I expected vagrants and thieves with only one rule to fill the bar. Do not discuss “The Republican.” I considered the rule, and their hidden treasure.
Jayne lit up a cigarette and took a long drag. “Jesus, come on those things will kill you!” I yelled. She leaned back, “Man, just look around you.” I realized I could hardly see through the thick unwavering smoke that filled the room. I shook my head. BBBBRRRINGGGGGGGGG. BBBBRRRINGGGGGGGGG. The doorbell rang over and over. People flooded into the dungeon one by one. A large screen television by the entrance played, Big Money Rustlas, a full length ICP movie. It was both fitting and comforting. The Republican had a charm that combined the darkest parts of the society, fusing them together into a masterpiece that hadn’t been updated in the last 50 years. I shook my empty beer bottle. “I’ll get this round,” I said to Jayne. Now was as good time time as any to find the bathroom.
I made the assumption that it was located in the abyss. The poodle stood by the metal stairs and stared at me. “What?” I asked the dog. It shook it’s head back and forth and walked away. Christ, what was I about to do. All signs pointed to “oh hell no.” Drunk me made the decision to go anyway. Clank, clank, clank, clank. Duck your head, man. I arrived at two small doors in a dark corridor. A cigarette vending machine, long forgotten from the 70’s rested against the wall. Strange noises came from inside the women’s room; something between a snort and a shriek pierced the door. I glanced over at the men’s room, or what was left of it. There was a giant hole full of splintered wood; the handle long forgotten. A drunk man kicked open the door. “HEEYYYOOOO!” he eagerly yelled one inch from my face. “Have some candy, man!” he said as he handed me a perfectly wrapped Jolly Rancher. I thanked the stranger for his kindness in a dark passageway.
Here I stood at the nexus of bathroom greatness. The tiny room was barely lit by a single 10 watt red bulb. As my eyes adjusted to the only light source downstairs, I noticed the urinal was covered in a black trash bag; permanently closed for business. The toilet lid was missing and a crooked coat hanger was floating in the water. Somewhere I knew MacGyver would have been proud. The handle to the toilet was missing; flushing the toilet involved some drunken hand eye coordination mastery if you were inclined to flush. I grinned, realizing I just witnessed first hand, the single dankest, dirtiest, and most mesmerizing bathroom in all of Philadelphia. If degrees were given in filth, The Republican obtained it’s Ph.D with highest honors.
When I returned, dancers had taken to the tiny stage and the bar was at capacity. Bras flew in the air. Drunk men and women blankly stared at a girl on stage. The dancer performed exotic ninja moves both upside down and sideways. Two men clapped in approval and threw money on stage. She graciously bowed and smiled. “Where’s the beer?” asked Jayne. “I just returned from the bathroom…for God’s sake give me warning next time,” I said in disapproval. Jayne burst out laughing. “Oh shut up and enjoy the boobs,” she replied.
I thought back to all of the advice I had received over the last 10 years. This was probably the best and strongest advice ever. I leaned back in my chair and stared. Not only was this excellent life advice, this should be The Republican’s motto.
The bottom line:
|Hours: 10 p.m. – 3 a.m.
|Price range: $$
Accepts Credit Cards: No
|Dance floor: No
Outdoor area: No
Coat check: No
This is usually the spot where we give our honest opinion about a place, like you were trying to convince a friend to go. I’ve got nothing. However, it is the most incredible place you’ll ever see passed 2 A.M. There’s rarely a cover and the prices are pretty standard. It’s perfect for those who aren’t squeamish and want to get in those last few drinks before stumbling to their “home” destination.
Addendum: A giant I’m sorry to Puff (the dog)! I made the proper correction and additions! Hope you can forgive a fellow!
The Republican Club
1734 Snyder Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19145