A cozy new hangout for the boomer crowd

Anne Frey, 59, says the inspiration for her 1 Tippling Place was a question: "What happened to people my age?"
Anne Frey, 59, says the inspiration for her 1 Tippling Place was a question: "What happened to people my age?" (ABI REIMOLD / Staff Photographer)

Where they can "hear each other talk and laugh."

Posted: July 26, 2012

Not long ago, Anne Frey, a Philadelphia stage actress-turned-real-estate agent, was sitting on her steps on 20th Street off Rittenhouse Square when she noticed something interesting. "There were so many people milling about, so many of them young, and I began to think: What happened to people my age?"

Frey, 59, wondered where her giddy, lively friends - anyone, really - could get comfortable and converse. "Where it is we can go and hear each other talk and laugh? Where was it that had a certain level of sophistication?"

It's what drove Frey to open a bar, called 1 Tippling Place, at 2006 Chestnut Street, a place that will cater primarily (not exclusively; it's not a membership club) to people her own age. The cozy, low-lit, parlorlike saloon with chic antiques will focus on boomers - those older than 50 who are still hanging out, thriving, and spending money with regularity in a world where girls go wild and boys run rampant to a Jersey Shore beat.

"1 Tippling Place is a place for hip grown-ups," said David Carroll, a 70-year-old Rittenhouse native who has owned numerous bars, including the former Hot Club at 21st and South, hosting everything from screaming-loud punk bands to techno DJs. He already considers himself a regular at Frey's boite, which had its soft opening the first week in July. The official opening is scheduled for next week. "It has the potential to be a gold mine. Nobody's doing a space with any of this sort of focus."

It's not an age thing - wanting to talk and be heard, to see and be seen; Frey says she was never a fan of loud bars. Instead, her model for Tippling was, at its pre-1930s best, Manhattan's Algonquin, the famed hotel with the Round Table where witty authors including Dorothy Parker and George S. Kaufman held court. And it's not like she's snubbing hipster youth. Frey has a 22-year-old daughter with whom she shares a great friendship. "I learn from younger people and believe they can learn a lot from us," said Frey. It's just that boomers have made cool their thing for longer than most hipsters have been alive.

Not to mention that it's a good time to make boomers your business. Even AARP - the organization and its magazine dedicated to serving 40 million-plus people older than 50 - is getting its groove on. In 2010, the magazine expanded its pop-culture coverage to better inform its readers of the youthquake of reality shows and teen-oriented films, and last year AARP plugged in to the downloadable music scene, opening an online radio station.

Frey has no experience owning a bar, but she saw the need for a space that spoke to her age group at a time when there are only a few hip local options for boomers. The Art Alliance of Philadelphia hosts occasional foodie-centric events whose attendance leans toward the older side. And Jerry Blavat, disc jockey and author of You Only Rock Once, is a one-man boom machine with Wednesday night retro-dance parties at SugarHouse Casino and quarterly Kimmel Center oldies concerts with sold-out houses of boomers.

"By the grace of God, because I take care of myself and dance - the jitterbug of yesteryear, freestyles from today - older people pick up on it. They see me moving and shaking," said Blavat, 71. If there are other hosts of older patrons in this city, you can bet your retirement savings that they aren't dancing in their underwear like Blavat.

In any case, Frey's 1 Tippling Place will be more than an occasional event: It will be a daily (and nightly), seven-days-a-week, watering hole with fireplaces, vintage chic decor, and calm music.

Ask Morri Safran, 43, where she and her friends go on a regular basis and she has difficulty answering.

"If you get to Zahav or Parc on a dead night and hit the exact right table, you won't be bombarded by noise and kids," she said, laughing. "You have to pick and choose your days."

Safran may have moved from Rittenhouse to Queen Village but after several visits to 1 Tippling Place, she already considers it her new home away from home. "People like me will definitely feel more comfortable there than under-25s," says Safran. "You know how you say that everybody's best place to drink is 'my house'? That's what it feels like at Annie's place. It feels like our personal bar."

Frey will host events such as casual cocktail-making lessons on Sundays, "something that's an option to just watching old movies or football," with her general manager David Tang, who worked under the king of New York City cocktail culture, Sasha Petraske. As a onetime Arden Theatre actress, she might put staged readings on Tippling's menu. "I just want the place to be fun."

"When I first announced I was doing something for more mature audiences to hang out, I got asked if I was running a cougar bar," said Frey, chuckling. "Just because it'll be a place where people can talk, doesn't mean they'll only be talking about that."

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