Phat’s Bar offers parties, food and alcoholic boba tea to Oakland residents

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Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer

Phat’s Bar, located on Semple Street, is one of Oakland’s newest party spots.

By Sarah Demchak, For The Pitt News

Walking down Semple Street, students will come across one of Oakland’s newest party spots — Phat’s Bar. The giant pink neon sign, loud music, friendly atmosphere and cool drinks are designed to draw customers in.

Phat Nguyen, Phung Nguyen and Andy Do opened Phat’s bar on Jan. 21 after spontaneously coming up with the idea during an earlier part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Phung Nguyen said they customized the interior themselves to make their bar different from other party scenes.

“We just want to find a good place that has good music, good food and a really good vibe,” Phung Nguyen said. “I always say, you can go down the street and get alcohol anywhere. But why do you want to come here? It should be an experience. It should be fun. It should feel safe.” 

Phat Nguyen also owns Ineffable Cà Phê in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood. Do lived in Atlanta before he opened Phat’s with the Nguyen brothers. After Phung Nguyen was stuck in Pittsburgh due to COVID-19-related flight cancelations, the duo decided to open a bar with Do, mixing their personal experiences from partying in Atlanta and Pittsburgh.

From helping in the coffee shop and working various different jobs, Do discovered the hardships of owning a bar — constantly being on his toes and thinking quickly to keep guests entertained. Unlike the cafe’s steady business model, Phung Nguyen said the bar emphasizes the importance of creating a fun and diverse atmosphere for all their customers, which can vary depending on the day and type of crowd.

“You’re selling an experience. You’re selling a party. No one wants to go to a dead party,” Phung Nguyen said. “You got to sell the party, you got to build the hype, you got to make everyone excited.”

According to Delaney Gatenby, a junior majoring in film and theater, the trio managed to curate a party scene that incorporated excitement and intimacy with everyone that enters the room. She said that Phat’s was the perfect combination of a party scene and relaxed area to socialize.

“It’s intimate. Usually at a bar, there’s the bar area, tables and dancing. But this has places where you can go sit and talk,” Gatenby said. “It’s nice that you can go somewhere else if you want to have a conversation rather than just being in the mix.”

Dylan Zilles, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said the bar’s friendly atmosphere is visibly seen with not just Phung Nguyen and Do, but with the attentiveness from bartenders.

“The service is amazing,” Zilles said. “The vibe is perfect — not too noisy. I don’t know how else to explain it, it’s just perfect.”

Do said Phat’s workers try to engage with their customers, whether that be playing giant Jenga or cornhole in the outdoor area, or simply chatting with party-goers at tables.

“There’ll be some nights where we were playing some Connect Four and people would just come in and try to beat us because apparently we’re really good,” Do said.

Andy Do opened Phat’s Bar with Phat Nguyen and Phung Nguyen on Jan. 21. (Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer)

Phung Nguyen said customers can win a free shot if they beat him and Do at Connect Four, currently an undefeated duo, emphasizing the importance of friendly customer interaction.

“If you can beat us, we’ll give you a shot,” Phung Nguyen said. “We want to interact with people and have that kind of connection with them — I think it’s been a positive experience there.” 

Besides constantly building its community aspect, Phat’s Bar continuously evolves to its ever-changing customer base. Do said most of their customers are local college students, so there is a rotation of new regulars every few years. Such fluctuation forces the trio to come up with new ideas on how to keep the bar current with people’s interests.

Currently, Phat’s Bar has DJs playing most nights, along with karaoke on Wednesdays and special themed events. Past events include a PJ night where guests came to party in their pajamas, or the “Very Important Phat Asses Night,” where customers came formally dressed.

The owners plan to serve brunch in the bar’s outdoor backyard, host more themed events and have alcohol tastings in the future. Mighty Swell, a spiked seltzer company, will be at Phat’s on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. so guests can try their new seltzers.

Besides the bar’s activities and events, Phat’s drinks and food differ from many other bars. For example, Do said he spent a lot of time and effort creating Phat’s famous alcoholic boba tea.

“Every day I would test the teas out and I could only drink like two or three of them,” Do said. “You’ll get a pretty quick buzz.”

Even though Phat’s carries typical bar food such as chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, chicken wraps and fries, they make everything themselves.

“Everything we make is in-house, we don’t buy frozen wings or anything,” Phung Nguyen said. “We actually make the wings in-house, all the sauces are made here, the ranch is made here.”

According to Phung Nguyen, the trio put a lot of time and effort into creating a fun and safe place for students to enjoy. Do said their guests fuel the owners’ excitement to continue creating new ideas for the bar.

“We got to meet new people and it was always fun to see them come back,” Do said. “And that’s always exciting to see. Seeing the same faces that you saw last week — that’s more exciting.”

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