Property owners defend decision to give the boot to Rathskeller, Spats

The Rathskellar on South Pugh Street in State College is the longest continually operating bar in Pennsylvania.
The Rathskellar on South Pugh Street in State College is the longest continually operating bar in Pennsylvania. psheehan@centredaily.com

The family who bought the property where the All-American Rathskeller and Spats Cafe and Speakeasy are located has taken to social media to defend themselves.

The Monday afternoon announcement that the businesses would close was met with a widespread, negative response. Many longtime patrons of the restaurant also began a #savetheskeller hashtag to voice their disappointment in a united front.

The Herlochers, who bought the property for more than $6.5 million in July, have attempted to put the brakes on the volatile reaction with their side of the story.

Neil Herlocher told the CDT earlier Monday that the Rathskeller and Spats owners, Duke and Monica Gastiger, had not signed a lease in six years for the space at the corner of East College Avenue and South Pugh Street. They also said the owners were given four months notice to leave the property and that the owners of the new bar and restaurant in the space would be interested in hiring some of the 60 employees that would lose their jobs.

The Herlochers later announced that their purchase of the property actually saved the buildings from being razed by other potential investors. The statement said they unsuccessfully attempted to have a lease signed by the Gastigers, who also allegedly turned down an offer to buy the businesses.

The Gastigers could not be immediately reached for comment on the Herlochers’ offer.

“We understand the concern many Penn Staters and State College natives have expressed,” the Herlochers said in a statement. “We want to assure you that as State College residents and Penn Staters we fully understand the historic importance of that location and memories made there across decades. We are committed to maintaining the character of the location that was founded in 1933 by Pop Flood as the Rathskeller and Gardens until 1934 when Doggie Alexander named it The All-American Rathskeller.”

Duke Gastiger said it pains him to know the popular restaurants will no longer be frequented by locals, students and visitors.

“It devastates Monica and I, and it devastates all of our employees,” he said. “I wish I could find a silver lining, but I think State College and so many people will miss both places. I’ve always preached having a sense of place and tradition, and we’re losing some of that.”

The Gastigers do not plan to reopen the Rathskeller, because it would not be the same in a different location. They will consider options to reopen Spats and will open a new restaurant called ReFarm Cafe in Patton Township.

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli

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