re:bar on East 9th Gets a New Start Under Bar Vet Jeff Allison

re:bar opened this past spring, but you wouldn’t know it by asking around. The sleek little lounge in the Gateway District has barely registered with potential clientele, so ownership decided to bring in some new blood.

“It’s a Jeff Allison project now,” says Jeff Allison, a guy who knows his way around a bar. Allison is an industry veteran who made a name for himself in projects as varied – and successful – as Mercury Lounge, Touch Supper Club and Garage Bar. In recent years he’s been classing up joints like Urban Farmer, the 9, and the new Hilton.

Despite breathing fresh life into the space and project, Allison isn’t calling this a “reboot” of re:bar.

“It’s not even a reboot because it’s like it never even happened!” he says, animated as ever. “Because at the end of the day, nobody really knew the place ever existed.”

That’s a shame, because the overlooked lounge looks great. The owners pillaged an industrial salvage yard to outfit the space, formerly Mr. Bill’s. Terrifyingly weighty steel drums serve as pendant lights over the bar (and customers’ heads). Other overhead fixtures are fabricated from giant metal mesh bins. The front windows are constructed from beefy steel columns are raised and lowered via overhead rope winches. And then there’s the namesake rebar, in this case three-inch thick foot rails that ring the bar.

Allison says that his plan is to create a bar that is “of the industry for the industry” – a place of quality that does not try to overcomplicate anything. Located in the heart of downtown, surrounded by office buildings, hotels and parking garages, re:bar has access to a large number of people going this way and that.

“All those people who work downtown. Also four hotels within walking distance. Down here there’s mostly restaurants and sports bars. This is not a sports bar environment, so they won’t feel out of place in their workplace attire.”

Allison has been on the cutting-edge of the cocktail scene going back to his Spy and Wish days. He’s seen trends come and go (I’m talking about you, long-ass “martini” lists). He appreciates the rise and appreciation of craft cocktails, just not all the accompanying pomp and pageantry, he says.

“The think I don’t like about the ‘cocktail movement’ is that this is supposed to be the service industry, with service being the operative word. If somebody wants a vodka soda, make them a damn vodka soda!”

re:bar offers local and domestic beer, both on draft and in bottles and cans. Most wine varietals are represented, though not in great numbers. And all the classic cocktails can be ordered and enjoyed.

“Manhattans, Moscow Mules, Last Words, Old Fashioneds, Dark and Stormys – the pillars of the cocktails scene that have stood the test of time,” he says.
“This is not a cocktail bar, but a cool place to enjoy a cocktail in a nice atmosphere with good music where you don’t feel like an old person.”

Allison is putting together a “wine bar-style food menu” with olives, cheese and charcuterie boards, maybe some bruschetta. He doesn’t have a ton of space with which to work, but he’d like to be able to offer the after-work crowd a nice bite to eat. If all goes as planned, Allison – and re:bar – can build a nice little bar business.

“I think over the course of the next weeks and months we can really turn this into something cool,” he says.
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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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