What’s New with Tabu

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

UPDATE: Tabu 2.0 will open October 9. The current space will be opened for OUTFest

There has been a lot of turmoil in the gayborhood recently. Back in June we reported that Tabu Sports Lounge was moving to the iCandy Building. Everyone has been very excited to hear what would be happening in the new space, so we went right to the top and talked with the owner of Tabu – Jeff Sotland.

Steve McCann: What will it be called? Tabu? Tabu 2.0?

Jeff Sotland: Tabu 2K18. It’s futuristic. Actually, we will legally still be Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar but we will make greater efforts to shorten it to just Tabu!

SM: When is your opening night?

JS: I would love to give you a definitive date for opening, but because of the state laws and timing of approvals, we are up in the air. We hope to open the week of September 24.

SM: Will the new space be mostly Tabu staff, old iCandy staff? A mix?

JS: We are still in the hiring phase. If I had to put percentages on it and remember we are almost tripling in size, I would say we are 30% Tabu staff; 20% Icandy staff; and 50% fantastic new hires. We were floored by the talent that walked in the door for interviews.

SM: Can you tell me on each of the floors, what you will change/update?


First Floor – We will be giving this an immediate cosmetic overhaul to turn it into a sports bar a la Tabu. Hi Top tables, pool table, and over 12 televisions throughout. The tap system is being replaced with 12 taps that will include the following: Brooklyn Lager, Goose Island 312, Lite, Bud Light, Tabru (our own house beer that is brewed for us by BreweryARS in South Philly), Lagunitas IPA, Angry Orchard, Golden Monkey, and two rotating beers. The biggest and most exciting addition to our tap system is Absolut vodka and Jameson!

Second Floor – We will be reconfiguring the stage a bit to make it safer for the performers to get up and down. We are going to utilize the left side of the second floor much more than in the recent past for special events, parties, and group outings. We have many requests for that semi private space and have been booking it for events into 2019.

Third floor – We will be reconfiguring the bar, installing a stage and creating a true Cabaret space. The space will be called Cabaret. We will use this for performances as well as DJs during late night.

Roof Deck – As of now, the roof deck is getting a minor facelift thanks to a few partners. We are adding a shuffleboard table. We are also changing the tap system on the roof deck. On tap will be Corona Light, Evil Genius Guava IPA, Angry Orchard, Blue Moon, Coors Light. In addition, we will also have Tito’s Vodka on tap. We are also adding new frozen drink machines and reformatting the frozen drink menu.

SM: You created a new position that most bars don’t have – Asst Manager of Diversity and Community Engagement. Why did you add this to your team?

JS: The question is not why we added it. The question is why did we wait this long. It probably should have been done long ago, but it also felt right to do it now and move forward with a renewed energy.

SM: You hired Stro Kyle as the new Asst Manager of Diversity and Community Engagement, what will be his role and what do you expect him to bring to the table?

JS: Stro Kyle is the perfect person for this job. Not only does he have the right demeanor, he has the respect of everyone who knows him. He understands what it takes to put on an event, but also is firmly grounded in the non profit world. In speaking with Stro I impressed upon him how important I felt it was that he continue the good work he does in the non profit world and how we want him to bring these two worlds together. So to start, Stro will be instrumental in all our relationships with non profits and bringing events to Tabu with those non profits. He will also bring events to the non profits. For example, we want to start an alternative venue at the William Way for the under 21 crowd who cannot come see drag, but who need a safe space and need a venue that can cater to them. We are incredible performers we will hopefully be able to engage a younger generation without having them have to lie to get into the bar. As to diversity, Stro understands our ideals, our goals, and our mission. We are a bar that is serving the entire community, including allies. That does not mean every event must cater to ever group, but every group will have a place and we will strive and work everyday to make sure that tabu is a safe space for our community. Much of what is to come I cannot comment on because we have not started yet. Stro brings many ideas to the table and I expect that many of those ideas I never contemplated, but we are committed to working to bring an energy and vibrancy to the community that has been missing.

We had a chance to talk with Stro as well – ” I am very excited to return at Tabu. The move from Icandy to this feels like a victory for our community. I think it’s an opportunity and symbolic for healing for many people and relationships as well. It would have been more difficult if things remained the same. I personally would not have returned to the gayborhood. When I was offered this position, I spoke candidly with and Tabu’s ambitions, its exciting that we’re on the same page. I don’t want to get into too much details just yet. But Tabu wants to go beyond just influencing night life. My role is to go beyond just evening events, but support community building and utilizing Tabu’s position for gayborhood revitalization, making the space easily accessible to grassroots organizations and promoters. My personal goals are not to do anything that’s already been done. Have a forward thinking approach and reflect the true diversity of Philadelphia’s Queer community.”

SM: We heard rumors about regulars Balls?

JS: There are balls….and then there are BALLS. As AC/DC said, We’ve got the biggest balls of them all. We do! There will be 4 Balls a year. Each focusing on different charities. We are working on the first one now for late 2018/early 2019. The cover will admittedly be a bit higher, but we guarantee it will be worth it. No one will want to miss it. The first event will support Children’s Hospital and The Morris Home.

SM: Are you expecting a change in vibe from the original bar?

JS: One of our biggest concerns was loosing our vibe. Someone said, the building is Tabu and once we move, the vibe is gone. I completely disagree. The people are Tabu and the vibe is only going to grow. When we made the announcement we were concerned some may not want us to move, may not want us to move to Icandy, may not like any number of things about this news. Our concern now is that we cannot meet expectations. There is such a strong drive from our staff (and new staff) to create the same vibe at Tabu once we move. We are mixing up all staff so Icandy/Tabu/Rookies all work together. Clearly the Tabu folks get it and I suspect everyone else will very quickly. As Freddy Shelley said, “Whoever you are, you belong here.”

SM: Anything else people should know?

JS: We have brought Carl Michaels on board as our house DJ. We will have the most diverse group of DJs anywhere in the Ghood. We will have three floors of music on weekends, with the first floor being music videos. We will continue with quarterly shows of Drag Race girls.

We had a chance to talk with Carl Michaels DJ Booking Director – “We are excited for Tabu’s new, expanded roster of the best local and international DJ talent. And as always, our programming will reflect the rich cultural and generational diversity of our LGBTQ+ community. We plan to always keep things fresh – and some of the national and international talent we are working on will make for some truly memorable nights.”

We will continue with tater tots, but our menu is changing. Because of the size of the new building, we had to think of logistics and common sense. We did not skimp though…we planned well. Trust us when we tell you that the tots are better than ever.

From a community perspective, there has been significant coverage of this move. People have asked so many questions and we have tried to answer them all. However, there are many unknowns. What we are asking is that the community have faith that we are trying our best to do all we can to make this the most vibrant, fun, exciting space for the entire community. Will we always get it right? Absolutely not…but every day, every person on staff is working toward that goal.

Read Related Posts...