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City That Drinks


Libricide in the name of booze

Photo: Jenn Ladd, License: N/A

Jenn Ladd

Most bibliophiles would sooner lose a limb than destroy a book, but when it came to constructing the new bar in the back of Atomic Books, co-owner Benn Ray didn’t hesitate. “We hacked them up,” Ray said from behind the bar of Eightbar (3620 Falls Road, [410] 662-4444), named as a riff on the fluorescent comic book series Eightball, illustrated by Daniel Clowes, whose resin-covered pages paper the wooden bar, forming a striking collage. “It felt weird hacking up the ones I was only using one panel of,” he admits, but mostly it was liberating. On a Wednesday evening, after the book shop’s normal closing time, Hampdenites drifted in and out of Eightbar in pairs, sampling options from an extensive, markedly affordable beer list. When Ray and co-owner Rachel Whang bought the tavern license from a nearby restaurateur to open the bar in the back of their bookstore (which, appropriately, celebrates its 21st anniversary and the official opening of the bar on Oct. 11), they were struck by the industry markup on alcohol as compared to that of books. “We’re happy to make 25 percent on something,” Ray said. That mentality accounts for the $4 glasses of wine at Eightbar. Ray seems slightly more interested in the beer, though, curating many of his craft offerings with an eye toward community or personal and literary connection. For instance, Eightbar offers Elysian Brewing Company’s Oddland series, which is a collaboration with artists from Fantagraphics Books (which Atomic carries). When asked about the $3 Pabst and Natty Boh options, Ray replies that they’re more or less obligatory, there for people who just want a cheap beer to drink while reading or chatting. Though not as populated as, say, Golden West, a spirit of camaraderie at Eightbar was nonetheless shared later, when patrons collaborated to squash a fruit fly. After a few unsuccessful swats, a bearded man deadpanned to his drinking companion, “So I’ve got this fly here,” after he quite casually captured the fly in his beer bottle. Everyone was pleased.

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