'We are closed forever': Philadelphia's historic City Tavern shutting down due to pandemic

The historic landmark was rebuilt in 1975 with the intent of giving people a taste of history.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The coronavirus has claimed a victim in Old City, and this one has been around since Ben Franklin's days: the City Tavern.

The quiet Old City alley next to City Tavern should be filled with wanderers of Philadelphia's most historic neighborhood.

"I guess people were nervous about the COVID," said Chef Walter Staib, a German restaurateur and television host who ran the tavern for 26 years. He says he can count the people who walk by.

"We have a beautiful garden outside, I thought, oh maybe people will come back and all that, it just never really happened," he said.

The restaurant is an ode to Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War. Staff wears 18th-century clothes, each room is maintained how it was those hundreds of years ago

"People talk about Lafayette, they talk about George Washington," explained Staib.

The historic landmark was rebuilt in 1975 with the intent of giving people a taste of history. Chef Staib spent nearly three decades preparing each meal from scratch.

"Even Saturday afternoon, I'm peeling potatoes to make my fresh mashed potatoes, which we are known for," he said, recalling the last meals he served there on October 31. The next day, he decided to close for good.

"Sunday was a horrible day, so we didn't even bother opening and starting today, we are closed forever," he said.

He says restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic crippled his business. He reduced staff from 85 to 20 employees, cut days open to four, and implemented all social distancing precautions.

"I think in one week we lost half a million dollars in cancellations, literally," said Staib.

While the restaurant is now closed, the building itself isn't going anywhere. It's a landmark maintained by the National Parks Service, but what's going to happen to it is undecided.

"I do know one thing, this place will be here, part of the history of Philadelphia. Obviously, it has to be," he said.
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