Photo: Dylan Cross
Things have been getting busier between West 84th and 85th Streets on Amsterdam Avenue recently.
That’s because e’s BAR, the brainchild of Erin Bellard and Ethan Hunt, set up shop in 2014 and has been growing steadily ever since, developing a loyal following of rabid fans. The new neighborhood favorite is a place that marches to the beat of its own playlist, evoking the vibe of a downtown destination in a distinctly uptown location.
Bellard and Hunt first met as neighbors in an elevator at 72nd Street and Riverside Drive. They longed for a neighborhood place that felt like home, a place to connect with friends and unwindh. The two decided to create their own spot.
Longtime Upper West Siders, they searched for their perfect location, and settled on the site mid-block on Amsterdam, formerly the Neptune Room and, most recently, Slightly Oliver. e’s BAR was launched, from idea to execution, within a year.
Bellard and Hunt’s cool spot was influenced by CBGB’s for the musical inspiration, and the East Village’s former beloved Mars Bar, for a certain atmosphere. You’ll only hear music specifically from 1960 to 1999, and the walls are covered with musical memorabilia.
“We wanted a place to get a burger and a beer (on the Upper West Side) and hang out at...something other than a wine bar,” explained Bellard. “We wanted a dive bar, for adults, but the bathrooms are clean,” she said with a laugh.
With more than 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Bellard spent six years with the New-York-City based B.R. Guest Inc., and had a hand in many top New York City restaurants, including Ocean Grill, Rouge Tomate and Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark and Witchcraft restaurants.
Hunt is a principal in the New York City branch of Lucky Strike Lanes on West 42nd Street. He is also one of the founders of Amsterdam Billiards & Bar, located on a small stretch of 4th Avenue in lower Manhattan.
“We are the real McCoy,” said Hunt, who grew up on West 87th Street. His father owned a laundromat and his mother was a teacher at P.S. 156. “We offer the Upper West Side authenticity that people gravitate to. We’re not transplants,” he said.
Bellard is the president of her son’s PTA at the Mandell School, but she thinks of the bar as an escape for parents. Underscoring how the business is committed to the community, the bar recently hosted a charity event for Ready for Rescue, a group dedicated to saving New York City’s cats and dogs.
Before technology, people actually went to a bar to talk and meet other people.
“It’s about conversation,” said Hunt, who wanted e’s to feel like old-school New York. They’ve created a space where customers are not necessarily basking in the glow of a cell phone. Filled with games ranging from Connect Four to Jenga and card games, people interact and enjoy each other’s company. No wi-fi necessary.
“We wanted people to engage with each other,” Bellard proudly admitted.
Keeping the menu and overhead reasonable with $8 burgers and $10-$12 menu items was another deliberate choice. Bellard developed a burger recipe that is meant to be a cross between Corner Bistro and J.G. Melon, creating the perfect bar bite.
If you’re looking for a celebrity chef with wait staff upselling specials nightly, move along. Just order from the bartender, so he gets to know you, or use the app Use Tray and your food will magically appear.
The owners are actively looking to expand on the Upper West Side, perhaps into the Columbia neighborhood or even higher uptown. The business plan was to create a place, like Cheers, where “everyone knowns your name.”
They’ve already done it at e’s.