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Glu Hospitality converts summer hotspot Vesper Dayclub into outdoor steakhouse

By Laura Smythe. Originally published by the Philadelphia Business Journal.


Bid farewell to swimsuit-clad sunbathers sipping ice-cold cocktails by the pool, and say hello to a full-service steak dinner that uses that same pool as a colorfully lit outdoor dining backdrop.

Glu Hospitality’s Vesper Dayclub is converting from a popular summer hotspot into an open-air steakhouse called Germantown Garden Grill. The pivot is a massive overhaul as colder weather sets in and restaurants get creative to bring in revenue while navigating the Covid-19 pandemic and associated business restrictions.

The 1031 Germantown Ave. spot previously hasn’t focused on food, but the new wide-ranging menu includes steaks, a raw bar, burgers, sandwiches, soups and dessert. The culinary team is led by Chef Chino Chang, while specialty craft cocktails are the brainchild of Glu Beverage Director Ryan Fenton.

Six mixed drinks will also be pulled from the menu of Glu Hospitality’s Midtown Village cocktail lounge Leda and the Swan, which opened in winter and remains closed amid the public health crisis.

Germantown Garden Grill will accommodate 120 guests with socially distanced seating. The 30,000-gallon heated saltwater pool will feature a colorful light display during the evening. Three private bungalows that can accommodate up to 15 people each for private events are available.

Private tables and bottle service are offered during Eagles football games, when large-screen HD TVs will be placed around the property. The private bungalows also include TVs.

Germantown Garden Grill is set to launch Friday. Dinner will run Mondays through Fridays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and brunch will be available on weekends starting at 11 a.m. Glu Hospitality’s seafood-focused garden restaurant and cocktail bar Germantown Garden, located next door, will continue operations until at least October.

Chang brings 30 years of cooking experience to the concept, and he specializes in Hereford grain-fed, upper-choice steak cuts including filet, New York strip, ribeye and prime rib. Other entrees include whole lobster, baby back ribs, double bone pork chop, Baltimore-style crab cakes and teriyaki salmon.

The raw bar includes oysters, clams, jumbo shrimp, calamari, seafood towers and tequila shrimp tacos. New England clam chowder, burgers and crispy chicken sandwiches from Glu Hospitality’s chicken sandwich brand Hunnie’s are also available. The group’s first pastry chef is behind housemade six-layer chocolate cake, layered rainbow birthday cake, Oreo cheesecake and a cookie sundae.

The poolside transformation is the latest operations revamp from the local hospitality group during the Covid-19 pandemic. Before the crisis, the group’s concepts were predominantly nightlife and event focused, with concepts like Vesper Center City and Leda and the Swan.

“That whole event nightclub industry virtually has been on hold, so we immediately shifted our gears more toward food service,” said co-owner Derek Gibbons. “If there’s any silver lining in all this it’s that this forced us to do that.”

The company is doing between 30% and 40% of pre-pandemic business, he added.

During the crisis, Glu Hospitality used the nightclub kitchen at Vesper Center City to launch its Hunnie’s Crispy Chicken brand for delivery as a new revenue stream.

During summer, Glu Hospitality also teamed up with two separate New York restaurant groups to partner on launching the Asian fusion concept SET and Mexican eatery Añejo, both in Northern Liberties.

The neighborhood has been rife with development recently from major firms such as Post Brothers, which is behind the extensive development of the Piazza.

“Being a business owner, you’re looking at what areas people are moving into,” Gibbons said. “The transition from last year to this year has been tremendous. There was a handful of restaurants, now it’s a bustling area where people can go from spot to spot and have an appetizer here and a dessert there.”

Glu Hospitality plans to open another concept in Northern Liberties in October.