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Starr veteran opening Growler’s in Bella Vista

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Jay Willard, a veteran of the Stephen Starr collective who most recently worked as GM of The Dandelion, is targeting September 1 for a new project: Growler’s, a neighborhood bar he’s opening in the former Vesuvio/Little Bar at Eighth and Fitzwater with Jason Evenchik, owner of Vintage, Time, Bar and the forthcoming Garage.

“It’s always been the plan,” says Willard, who remembers watching the Phillies win the 2008 World Series at Vesuvio, of branching out on his own. “I remember saying to myself, ‘It doesn’t get any better than Starr. The only way I would leave is if I open my own place.’”

That’s precisely what he’s doing. Adding a complementary element to the east-of-Broad area that already boasts gastropubbish stalwarts like Wishing Well, Royal Tavern, Hawthornes and Tapestry, Growler’s, if you’ve surmised by the name, will be for beer drinkers — Willard, who made his bones at Starr as a beverage manager, plans on expanding the six-tap draft system in addition to piecing together a “handsome” bottle and can selection. (There will also be a simple craft cocktail list.) In lieu of pitchers, the bar will pour its titular 64-ouncers for table service, plus to go.

The physical changes Willard and Evenchik have planned for the space are mostly cosmetic (the TVs and two working fireplaces will remain), leaving them to focus on the drink and the food, a neighborhood-friendly spread being developed by a chef who can’t yet be named. There will be no live music, a 180 from previous tenant Little Bar’s approach.

“Everyone has their own ideas of how they’d do it if it was theirs,” says Lehigh Valley native Willard of his impending transition to self-employment. “I’m of the mindset that I’ll take the structure and organization that was instilled in me [by Starr] and try to duplicate their best practices.”

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