Pictures from nearly a decade’s worth of old friends and recycled stories adorn the walls at Bar Poás. Even after Larry Wharton bought the expat bar from founder Harry Hart, he decided to honor its valuable legacy by keeping everything the same – from the atmosphere coated in Cubs memorabilia to the menu headlined with chili and hot dogs.
Officially taking over on Nov. 1, Wharton came to San José via New Egypt, New Jersey, where he worked in a lab for Coca-Cola. The 51-year-old said he always toyed with the thought of owning a business in Costa Rica, and when his life in the U.S. became stale, he knew just where he could escape. Wharton said he got tired not only of the monotony, but also from witnessing so much around him fall apart.
“The older you get you watch people get old, get sick, or even die,” he said. “You realize you’re young and you still have time to do something else.”
Wharton has adjusted well to this foreign business venture and takes Spanish classes twice a week to better his transition to his new home. In a decision that has made that adjustment easier, Wharton chose to retain every member of the bar’s staff, keeping up with his business model that is heavy on stability.
A daily happy hour from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., as well as revolving food specials have allowed Wharton and the Bar Poás to keep attracting Gringo and Tico crowds just like the bars first days in 2005. Despite a change in ownership, specials – like chicken wings on Wednesday or hot dogs for 400 colons on Sunday – have remained a constant.
Hart, who has retired to La Fortuna, still drops by about once a week to check in and see some old friends around town. And everyday he can be seen between the tilted picture frames covering the bar, always looking over one of San José’s expat watering holes.