Café Nine is New Haven’s corner bar. For over 30 years, a diverse and colorful medley of people have passed through the doors where on an given night you are able to rub shoulders with world famous musicians and at the same time catch up with friends, have a date, and celebrate any random occasion.
Located at 250 State St. on the corner of Crown St., Café Nine began its current form in 1990. The building dates back to the early 1880s, appearing on an insurance map as a produce store located in the heart of New Haven’s dry goods district. Due to the proximity to Long Wharf and the harbor, then the Farmington Canal, and later the railroads, lower State St. was New Haven’s bread basket. It was densely packed with markets, small factories and what we term today as “mom and pop” shops. The local storefronts catered to the residential working class and the teeming new immigrant population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With that, came the rise of the “shot and beer” bars. Small hole in the wall taverns where a diverse cross section of the city would casually convene at all hours of the day for a cheap drink.
From 1891 to 1935, R & C Harris and Co. was located at 248-250 State St. Records indicate it was a wholesale corner market that at one point sold liquor, wine and beer as its preferred source of income. In 1936, a man named E.F. Stephens opened and ran a barber and cosmetic supply company that lasted until 1967. From 1967 to 1972 the ground floor store was occupied briefly by a thrift store followed by the Zoom Restaurant, which has been described as “counter culture friendly hip coffee house.”
In 1972, Michael Reichbart opened Blubartz Café, a shot and beer bar keeping in the tradition of friendly local inexpensive watering holes on State St. Named as a combination of Reichbart’s preference for wearing all blue at the time and his last name, Blubartz quickly developed a diverse group of regulars. A person’s color, sexual orientation, or beliefs didn’t matter to Michael. He and his staff greeted everyone with a smile and a drink. In 1974, Reichbart bought the entire building and began to book local rock, doo-wop, and acapella groups to play several nights a week.
Reichbart sold Blubartz in 1984 only to reacquire it in 1990. The interior stucco walls were chipped off to reveal the bricks underneath, the old bar was rehabbed, and the stage was expanded. Reichbart removed the second front door to accommodate the new larger stage. The address became solely 250 State St. and Café Nine was born.