I spent a morning chatting with Shawn Dahl, proprietor, with Molly Mulholland Fitch, of the new International Bar at 7th St and 1st Ave. For months now, Shawn and Molly have been working hard to put the International back together, combining, as Shawn said, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. It’s like a marriage.” And June 18 will be the big day.
More International Bar pics on my flickr
While most of the place was gutted and dumped in a Dumpster (including the upside-down Christmas tree), much of it remains, along with pieces of other places. The vintage bar comes from the Raccoon Lodge of York Ave. The tables are a mix of International salvage and pieces from their shuttered neighbor, La Casalinga. The vintage cash register came from third-generation cash-register restorer Brian Faerman. The gold-leaf signage was done by a guy named Kirk, though some of the letters are original (RNATION). The wall sconces and much of the artwork hung in the old bar. And the graffiti on the rear windows was made by numerous bathroom-users back in the day.
Shawn and Molly are neighborhood people and hope to recreate a neighborhood bar. Said Shawn, “We want a great place for people to hang out. A living room. Just a place to come and drink.” They’ll be opening at noon to attract the thirsty locals.
Being green and economical, they’re keeping the lighting dim, and the dark purple walls and brown varnished wood create a warm, cave-like atmosphere. For those who bemoan their choice to move the bar from the right side of the room to the left, Shawn gives a rundown of the bar’s history.
The International Bar & Grill began on St. Mark’s (see 1979 photo) in the hands of Mary Petruno who moved it to its current spot when she bought the building. She put the bar on the left side of the new space. When she died in 1988, her son Michael (the “Sacred Cowboy”) took it over and moved the bar to the right side where it stayed after his death in 1992 and throughout the years when his partner, Joy Jackson, ran the place. After Joy’s death in 2002, without a will, the International and its building floated in limbo. It was sold and gutted, then sold again, this time to uber-landlord Steve Croman. The bar is actually now back in its original place.
When Molly and Shawn open on June 18, the jukebox will be filled with Molly’s favorite albums (she’s the musical one, guitar player for the rock band Glass Hand), an eclectic unexpected mix that will include: The Who Sellout, The Shaggs, Charley Pride, and REM. (I put in a request for The Smiths.) On tap, you’ll find Yuengling, Grolsch, and Stella, with Schaeffer in the can, “Nothing fancy.”
Many of the bar’s former regulars have stopped by to check it out. They generally approve of the freshening up and Shawn assures us that, while it’s cleaner than before, “It will accumulate its own grime over the years.” She hopes people will “feel as comfortable here as they did in the old seedy place.”