By now, if you’ve spent even the shortest amount of time on the St. Mary’s Strip, you might recognize the model of a Danny Delgado-owned bar: Cleaned up interiors, serious new additions in the way of brand new woodwork, unpretentious, but spooky vibes, attention to detail and reasonably priced drinks. As of this weekend, San Anto bar-goers can add The Squeezebox
to Delgado’s impressive empire of cantinas.
This time Delgado has teamed up with co-owners Ryan Dietrich, Osvaldo Ordonez, Julio Lopez and Aaron Peña to open the bar at 2806 N. St. Mary’s St. inside the former home of Laura’s Floral Design Boutique. Though the group was originally looking at the spot where Michael Sohocki’s Il Forno is now located, The Squeezebox belongs on the Strip with its bar and restaurant brethren (Faust Tavern, Hi-Tones, La Botanica, Phantom Room are all within walking distance of each other). The lease for the new spot was signed on Halloween and the group set out to turn a flower shop into what they’ve dubbed “The sounds and soul of San Anto on The St. Mary's Strip."
The effort has been DIY to be sure. Peña, who began his turn as bartender at The Friendly Spot Ice House before dabbling into cocktails at The Brooklynite, will lead the bar side of things. Before anyone panics: No, The Squeezebox isn’t a cocktail bar.
“We’re not gonna blow anyone’s mind with cocktails,” Peña said, while adding he’ll still carry correct ice and fresh juices in case anyone cares for libations of that sort.
Instead Peña will focus on speed and volume, with good reason. The Squeezebox holds 99 people, and will have to contend with Delgado’s winning record with a sprawling patio and its own parking lot (a rarity on the Strip).
On the music side of things, Julio Lopez of Los De Esta Noche will work on perfecting that sound that will blend Tejano, conjunto, oldies, blues and soul under one roof. The San Anto sound will reverberate opening night on Friday, July 1 at 9 p.m. with Eva Ybarra and Santiago Jimenez Jr. and cornetist and homegrown jazz legend Jim Cullum will have his own night once The Squeezebox finds its rhythm.
The DIY labor extends into the décor, which keeps in line with Delgado’s other bars but sticks with the accordion theme. Artist Christopher Montoya is responsible for the majority of the signage and artwork, which includes a hand-painted mural next to the stage. The dimly lit spot also includes antique light fixtures and four ol’ timey accordions, which Delgado turned into lamps, which now sit above each booth. The piece de resistance for now is a Joe Avila-created neon that succinctly describes the joint, but don’t let me spoil it for you.
Outside, the patio will easily seat more than 25 people, and will likely feature a cash-only bar on busy weekend nights. Though the programming is still in the works, expect a barbacoa and Big Red brunch in the future with sounds by The Texamaniacs.
For Peña, 28, opening The Squeezebox has been about buckling down, working together and getting work done for the past eight months.
“We’ve had a lot of hype because of where we are [on the Strip] people are eager,” Peña said, “but we’ve been pretty secretive about who sees what’s going on the inside.”
Your new squeeze is almost here, San Antone.