You may have noticed a very busy section between West 84th and 85th Streets on Amsterdam Avenue recently. e’s BAR, the brain child of Erin Bellard and Ethan Hunt, set up shop in 2014 and have been growing steadily ever since, developing a loyal following of rabid fans. Sure, there are plenty of bars and restaurants on the Upper West Side, but e’s BAR marches to the beat of their own drum (err, playlist!), and has quickly become a neighborhood favorite.
Tried and true New Yorkers, Bellard and Hunt’s cool spot was influenced by ‘downtown’ CBGB’s for the musical inspiration, and East Village’s former beloved Mars Bar, for a perfectly ‘dive’ 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 laughed.
Longtime Upper West Siders, they searched for their perfect location, and settled on the site of the former Neptune Room and, most recently, Slightly Oliver, mid-block on Amsterdam. e’s BAR was launched, from idea to execution, within a year, and their laser sharp focus can be felt immediately when you enter the bar. It’s a key reason for their success thus far.
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 unwind from the day. So, feeling they had few choices, they decided to create their own.
“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.”
During her twenty plus years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Erin Bellard has garnered a reputation as one of the most respected and busiest young experts in the business. She 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.
Ethan 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, the most successful billiard establishment in the United States, located on a small stretch of 4th Avenue in lower Manhattan. (Yes, there is a 4th Avenue.)
With its proximity to Central and Riverside Parks, the Upper West Side is generally synonymous with families of all sizes, and strollers three deep on the sidewalks is not an uncommon sight. But while Bellard and Hunt are both parents, e’s focus was creating a comfortable escape to a ‘downtown’ atmosphere on the Upper West Side. Bellard said, “Even we need a place to get away! We wanted e’s to be a bar and not a restaurant.”
Bellard, who is also president of her son’s PTA at the Mandell School added, “We live in the community and want to be involved in it.” They 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. What they have created, is the only bar I’ve recently visited where people aren’t 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. “We wanted incredibly tasty food supplemented with great drinks.” Bellard developed a burger recipe that is 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.
When Bellard and Hunt opened e’s BAR, they intended it to be the first of many more ventures. They are actively looking to expand on the Upper West Side, perhaps into the Columbia neighborhood or even higher uptown. They told me that one of the items in their business plan was creating a bar where “everyone knows your name” like the famed bar in the 80’s series Cheers. They’ve already done it at e’s. All they need now is a theme song.