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Tracy Stanton & The 700 Club: Building Community Through Beer And Music.

October 10, 2012

As part of our partnership with Philly Beer Scene magazine, we’re documenting Philly’s relationships between music and beer. For the most recent issue of Philly Beer Scene, G.W. Miller III learned about Tracy Stanton, co-owner of The 700 Club, and how beer and music helped build the Northern Liberties we know today.

Before The 700 Club came along, Northern Liberties was a sketchy place with a landscape that featured chicken rendering plants and vacant lots overgrown with weeds.

A character named “Shank” donned women’s sunglasses and hung out near the corner of 2nd and Fairmount, where the 700 is now. He reputedly earned his moniker after stabbing a guy in prison.

“Everyone thought we were totally crazy to open a bar here,” says Tracy Stanton, a New York native who bought the two-story property with business partners Kurt Wunder and Chris Sey in 1997.

Their vision was for a comfortable corner bar with a lounge upstairs for music.

At the time, the Druid’s Keep was The Newport, a bar catering to black lesbians. Standard Tap was the Bull’s Head, a hangout for meth-dealing bikers, according to Stanton. “It was the type of bar where everyone turned and looked at you when you entered,” he remembers.

Silk City, the diner and club on nearby Spring Garden Street, was open then and it was a hub for happening DJs and new musical acts. But few people ventured into the actual neighborhood for entertainment until the 700 opened up. And that sparked a renaissance in the neighborhood, which has since become a mecca for nightlife.

“We made it safe for normal, middle-class kids,” Stanton says with a laugh.

He and his partners had worked together for years at the Khyber Pass when the Old City joint was the place for beer and music. Stanton was a tech guy who also performed in bands like Mel’s Rockpile and the Mark Boyce Combo. He currently plays several instruments for Blood Feathers and plays bass for Dong Johnson.

While the options in Northern Liberties have multiplied exponentially over the past 15 years, the 700 remains popular. Loyal, longtime neighbors patronize the main bar – many are there every day, and after 10, the cool kids come for dancing upstairs.

“It works out really well,” Stanton says. “You come downstairs if you strike out upstairs. If you’re downstairs and you get bored, you go upstairs to try your luck.”

They offer beers from around the world. On tap, they have poured a wheat beer, a white, a European pilsner, an ESA, an American IPA and two local brews since the day they opened.

Stanton, along with bar back and fellow musician Ed Farnsworth, helps book music for the twice-annual neighborhood music festival, a fundraiser for the community-owned park. Farnsworth also worked at the Khyber back in the day and has been with the 700 since it opened. He lives around the corner.

“I work two jobs,” says Farnsworth, who also works at a nearby publishing company. “I’m here at 2nd and Fairmount and my other job is two steps away. I rarely leave the neighborhood.”

“I love Northern Liberties,” Stanton adds. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Stanton owned a music shop called Dot Dash Records, located across the street from the 700. He sold the store to pay for his wedding. Now, he and his wife are raising their 5-year old son, Dashiell, in the neighborhood.

“We all moved here because it was quiet and we could get some space,” he says. “There was no community. We really created a community.”

Dong Johnson will play a hardcore house show on Friday in West Philly. Details are here.

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