Bringing Philly music back to South Street

To hear the men of MilkBoy tell it, running multiple production studios while managing the opening of a restaurant and bar on South Street has got them knackered.

But as partners Tommy Joyner and Jamie Lokoff put the finishing touches on their new spot on the corner of Fourth and South streets, they want to make one thing clear.

“MilkBoy is a music and entertainment company first,” says Joyner, noting its recording studio on North Seventh Street, its production of local filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena Joyce’s 2015 Slow Learners comedy and an “art house” project in partnership with the University of Maryland.

“The venues and how they operate are an extension of that brand and our high standards,how friendly we are,” says Joyner. “You can always expect a high-five from us, whether it’s across a bar or before a microphone stand. “

He might be exhausted, but Joyner perks up when discussing Milkboy South, the new bar/restaurant and live music venue set to open June 15 on South Street.

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As excited as he is, he points out that the new joint will not replace Milkboy North, the mega-successful live music venue and restaurant at 11th and Chestnut streets.

“Chestnut Street is here to stay, despite the building being sold,” says Joyner, who adds that the property’s owner and landlord set up Joyner and Lokoff with a new 15-year lease. For Joyner, South Street is very much like Chestnut Street was back in 2011 when they opened there. “Do we like taking risks?” Joyner laughs. “Remember what that corner of Chestnut was before we got there? There was nothing; a dead zone. Everyone thought we were crazy. Same when we began looking at the corner of Fourth and South.”

Lokoff picks up the story on a rainy Sunday at MilkBoy South, its freshly-painted charcoal gray façade, minimalist woods and glowing orange glass doors giving it a radically different look from past incarnations Lickety Split, a faux-tropical disco bar and, more recently, a bleak red-sauce palace with lame live music called 2nd State Lounge and Alleged Pizza. “Ken Silver, my buddy who owns Jim’s Steaks, had been trying to get MilkBoy down here forever,” says Lokoff. When the corner property across the street from Jim’s – with a liquor license, yet – went up for sale, Lokoff says Silver had a plan. “Bring MilkBoy in there, we’d sell fries and veggie cheesesteaks – stuff he wasn’t selling — and the corner of Fourth and South would boom again,” says Lokoff, who along with Joyner considered the 2,000-square-foot corner location (considerably smaller than MilkBoy North) and took the plunge.

“South Street has always been awesome, but it should be awesome-awesome now, not the mess it can be at times,” says Joyner, referring to the dearth of hospitality down South.”This corner is iconic,” says Lokoff.

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He says while its downstairs will focus on food and drink, eat-in and take-out, MilkBoy South’s upstairs room will focus on live entertainment, seven days a week. “I think [we] can get small bands or singer-songwriters in here that will draw 60 people,” says Lokoff, deferring to booking agent Bryan Dilworth. Though he has not yet claimed any bookings for MilkBoy South, Dilworth too talks up the street’s legendary status and promises surprises old and new for the intimate venue. “Along with newer, younger acts, we can tap into the traditions of the block and get some of the familiar old-school names who used to play down here regularly,” says Dilworth.

“With J.C. Dobbs gone – a classic music venue – we knew something was lacking,” says Joyner. “We’re big believers in South Street. If we can’t make it at Fourth and South, we can’t make it anywhere. We should be able to crush this.”

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