While preparing a feature on last night’s shuttering of Rittenhouse-area, Walnut Street’s Res Ipsa Café, based, in part, on conversations that I had shared with its co-owner Tyler Akin, another very real closing came to pass: after seven years and 1,500+ shows, Boot & Saddle on Broad Street is closing its doors – another local venue lost to COVID.
Back in 2013, before it reopened for the first time in 17 years, I had one of the first opportunities to walk through the well preserved Wild West kitsch of the B&S before a single live show played out: the vintage stamped-tin ceilings and walls, the horseshoes and steer horns, the lassoed, drunken cowboys, barkeeps, and gunfightin’ babes in bikinis raising hell on wall murals sepia-toned from decades of cigarette smoke. The beat-up, boot-shaped sign beckoning out front on Broad Street was nowhere near the neon-lit repair it is currently and vividly renowned for.
“We did very little to Boot & Saddle, outside of cleaning things up, taking a few things down, and putting up stuff we found in the attic,” co-owner Mark Fichera, told me then of the off-Washington hot spot in the making. (Locals Fichera and R5’s Sean Agnew co-own B&S, the Dolphin Tavern and Union Transfer, and made the decision to close Boot & Saddle for good to “assure that our sister venue, Union Transfer, can survive well into 2021.”)
Along with reminding me (with little provocation, I may add – they’re my neighbors) that both Lizzo and Sam Smith made their Philadelphia debuts at the B&S, the likes of Thurston Moore, Psychic TV, the Sic Kidz, The War on Drugs and more graced its narrow stage. The B&S ownership team credited the hard work of their entire staff, past and present, (“Gina, Andy, and both Jeffs”), and were quick to claim an “In memoriam” creation of an R.I.P. Boot & Saddle Benefit T-shirt with portions of is sales proceeds going toward “continuing to pay our full-time staff’s health care during the pandemic, as well as keeping the lights on at Union Transfer (for which we very much intend to not have to make an R.I.P. Union Transfer Benefit T-shirt).”
Go to Bootandsaddlephilly.com one last time.