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Help with a space for an alumnae happy hour? Anywhere from Old City to University City, but close to Septa

I hope this question hasn't been adressed before, but feel free to point me in the right direction if it has. I'm looking for a space to do a kind of drop-in alumnae happy hour, probably no more than 10-20 people at a time, somewhere in Philly. What I'd like is somewhere big enough that we won't get in the way (a constant problem in narrow bars in D.C.), cool enough that people show, and fun enough that it's not just bitter graduates tossing back wine spritzers. Preferably, the drinks/cocktails would be relatively cheap, but good. This would be in January, so nothing reliant on an outdoor space.

In all honesty, I'm a little stumped-- there's a part of me that would love Tria, but they're way too small. I suppose a Tria/Biba might work if it were totally empty, but I suspect that's never true. I would love Capogiro (January be damned!) but I wasn't sure if the one in University City would work, size/not annoying other people-wise. Other thoughts (huge wide range, as I've never tried to plan anything like this before!)

Good Dog Bar (too loud?)
Marathon Grill (generic, probably not a bad thing)
Caribou Cafe (went here for dinner, loved it; couldn't remember if the downstairs space was flexible enough for groups)
Triumph Brewing (decent sandwiches, big)
World Cafe Live (have no idea how busy this gets for happy hours)

If anyone has any thoughts, please let me know, especially if you've been to a similar event anywhere in Philly and loved or hated it....Thank you!

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  1. Zocalo (at 36th & Lancaster on the #10 trolley AND parking) has a Happy Hour every night from 4:30P to 6:30P. Taking space considerations into account, Sunday through Thursday would probably be a fine time for your group.

    Love their appetizers which are Happy Hour specials!

    1. I think you're right that Tria is too cramped for this.

      At Good Dog, the downstairs (too small) and 2nd floor (almost all seating for diners) won't work, but the 3rd floor could. It's an open space "game room" with a pool table and darts, If you lay claim to a side of it, that would work. The downside is that there is no bar up there; people would need to go down to the 2nd floor to get drinks.

      Triumph would actually be perfect for this; it's huge and you could grab a section and be set. How "cool" it is I think depends on who you ask; the suspect the chow crowd isn't too down with it, but it's popular for events like this.

      The upstairs at World Cafe is an ok space, I think, but I don't like how it's kind of on an island between UC and Center City. It's near SEPTA but nothing else is in the immediate vicinity. If you do Old City or CC your turnout may be better because it's easy to stay out after the event.

      Some other suggestions:

      Chifa. I went to a Happy Hour event there once, and there was more than enough room at the bar for your crowd (standing room) and the atmosphere is pretty cool.

      Time. Classy atmosphere on the one side, and enough of room for this. I don't know if they have good specials.

      2 Replies
      1. re: barryg

        Extremely helpful, thank you so much! I am a bit worried about turnout based on access to parking and/or Septa; UC is tempting because it's closest to 30th and the UPenn campus, but most of the invitees will be coming in from the suburbs and you're right, it makes far more sense to put them in tempting range of the restaurants and sights of Center City and Old City.

        I'll investigate Triumph, Chifa, and Time more; as much fun as darts sounds, I know people get irritated when asked to wander far afield for booze. Haven't ever seen Time, or Zocalo (comment above) so I'll definitely check them out.

        1. re: barryg

          I'd avoid World Cafe Live for this - the bar area isn't that big (especially if folks are hanging around for a later show) and I seem to reall they have live music - ie, lots of noise - during their happy hours at least sometimes so it would not be a good pick for people who actually want to talk.

          I might throw out Black Sheep Pub on 17th as a suggestion as well. Not sure what their happy hour specials are, but it's a multi-level space, and I'd once talked to them about setting up a big party for afternoon drinking/socializing and they were totally cool about it and had the space for it (the event ended up getting canceled thru no fault on their end). Reasonably close to both City Hall/Suburban Station stops, and also the Patco line. I just like that place for hanging out on the weekends or with larger groups, so I'd imagine it would work well for your needs as well.

        2. I remember going to Independence brew pub when there were happy hours there and space set aside for groups. Imagine Field House - which has that space now - would work just as well. Coudln't be closer to Market East Station, not far from the El or too far from BSL.

          I've also been at Smokin' Betty's when they hosted groups, and those groups also seemed to be enjoying themselves. That's not far from SEPTA but less close (and not the nicest of walks - unless by some random chance everyone in your party is taking the 23!)

          Also did an Aluni happy hour once at McCormick and Schmicks that went well; wasn't part of the organizing, but it was generally good.

          2 Replies
            1. re: chocolatstiletto

              Jose Garces (Philly's Iron Chef) just opened his new place at the Cira Center right at 30th St. station. Haven't heard any reviews yet, but i think they have a bar and should be good.
              Black Sheep also has a room upstairs, not sure if you have to pay for the bar, but i went there once for a group gathering and it is good....good beers, good food.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. Third floor of good dog is a good idea, as is the basement of black sheep. Other reserve-able places include pub & kitchen and ten stone. not sure if you can reserve upstairs at standard tap, but that would be a great spot. Solefood at the loew's hotel has good happy hour deals and is a good space. The re-opened bar at the sofitel might work too.