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November 02, 2020

Historic Old City restaurant City Tavern closes after 26 years

Coronavirus pandemic claims another storied Philadelphia eatery

Business Closures
City Tavern Philly Google/Street View

City Tavern opened on 2nd Street in Old City in 1994. The Revolutionary era property, dating back to 1773, is owned by the National Park Service. Chef Walter Staib's long-running restaurant closed for good on Oct. 31, 2020 amid hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

City Tavern, one of Philadelphia's most historic dining experiences, has closed for good as a result of hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant's owner announced.

Located at 138 South 2nd St., City Tavern is housed in a building that dates back to 1773. It was an unofficial meeting place for delegates of the Continental Congress, serving as a scene of numerous Revolutionary era events attended by the nation's most prominent founders.

Restaurateur and cookbook author Walter Staib, who has more than 650 restaurants around the world, said Monday on Facebook that his flagship, City Tavern, would be no more.

Happy days 26 years ago. Unfortunately, we announce today that the City Tavern is ceasing operations after many years. What a legendary and memorable journey.

Posted by Walter Staib on Monday, November 2, 2020

Staib told the Philadelphia Business Journal that City Tavern relied on overseas tourism for about 40% of its business. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Staib was already nearing the end of his lease with the National Park Service. With business grinding to a halt, he decided not to renew his lease as a concessionaire.

The building contains three floors of dining rooms that can hold up to 300 guests. The restaurant's large staff had been pared down during the pandemic.

Staib, who received congressional approval to open the restaurant in 1994, said he expects the property will undergo major renovations before it is reopened. It's unclear what the future holds for the historic site.

City Tavern is the latest in a string of Philadelphia restaurants to shut down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced last week that Pennsylvania will waive $27.7 million in 2021 liquor license fees to help support restaurants, bars, caterers and hospitality businesses heavily impacted by the pandemic.