Many of the Soul Bar's hallmarks - the memorabilia, mirror ball and multiple James Browns - are gone, victims of the fire that swept through the Broad Street establishment and shut its doors for more than a month earlier this year.
But the spirit remains.
Inside the pioneering downtown tavern, only the vague aroma of smoke and fresh paint offer evidence of the fire. The bar has been rebuilt, and posters and pictures - some new and some salvaged - adorn the walls. Soul Bar owner Coco Rubio credits the phoenixlike resurrection to a small army of once and future patrons unwilling to accept the idea of Broad Street without a Soul Bar.
"That was really cool," he said. "It felt like a real community, a real system of support and we liked seeing that. I was surprised, because there were people that I didn't really even know coming up and leaving notes and offering to help out. I didn't know so many people would feel affected by this."
Asked to pinpoint the secret of Soul Bar's success, Mr. Rubio struggled a little. He said it's an almost impossible task to offer something for everyone, but that an intentional diversity might have something to do with it.
"That's the whole thing here - diversity," he said. "There's a diversity of music, of bands and also in the crowd we attract. I think that's what makes this different from most bars."
Although open again, Mr. Rubio said the rebuilding process is far from complete. He said it took years to develop the aesthetic of the pre-fire Soul Bar, and even then it was a work in process.
"I always feel like there are things to do to get this place where I want it to be. It's a process. Yeah, it's important to keep it familiar, but you also have to keep pushing at the edges."
THE PLACE: Soul Bar, 984 Broad St.
FASHION STATEMENT: Obscure indie rock T-shirt
DRINK OF CHOICE: Beer, the more exotic the better
THEME SONG: Pre-fire: I Feel Good; post-fire: Hot Pants
IT'S A FACT: The Soul Bar location was once a pawn shop
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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