Herlochers address the future of Rathskeller location, reveal new tenant’s plans

A peek inside the Rathskeller

Memorabilia fills the walls in the iconic State College bar, the Rathskeller.
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Memorabilia fills the walls in the iconic State College bar, the Rathskeller.

The Herlocher family submitted a statement to Onward State that the new owners of the space of Rathskeller would continue to operate the bar as thousands of patrons have “known it” for decades.

The Herlochers, who bought the property for more than $6.5 million in July, have given the owners of the Rathskeller and Spats Cafe and Speakeasy until the end of February to move out.

The statement said the new owners would be revealed before 2018 and did not include the names of the businesses. Duke Gastiger, co-owner of the restaurants, said Tuesday afternoon there had been no changes to any potential negotiations with the Herlochers on purchasing the names. The Herlochers have not responded to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The Herlochers cleared up a few concerns of patrons, including that they have no intention of tearing down the building, developing a high-rise or making the bar a national franchise.

“We are a family of Penn Staters and State College natives who live here, work here and are raising our family here,” the statement said. “We walk the downtown streets every day and savor the sights, sounds and the unique feel of what makes this the best college town in America. We, like many of you, believe that certain things should remain. That is why we acted, to prevent this landmark building from vanishing from the College Avenue landscape. When it became clear that the current operator arrangement would not continue, we carefully considered the next steps.”

News of the Rathskeller and Spats closing spread quickly. The response appeared to be shock, followed by efforts to keep the eateries open and some went as far to say they’d boycott Herlocher’s Food Inc. Dave Cole, a State College native, began a petition to save the restaurants on change.org.

“The outpouring of public sentiment is heart-warming for our employees, Monica and me,” Gastiger said. “I had 647 messages on my phone this morning, most relating a moment in time at the Skeller or Spats that will remain etched in their memories. (They told me) funny or emotionally, sensitive stories that we’ll cherish.”

He refuted the claim that the Herlochers offered to buy the businesses. He said the Herlochers’ offer was for the Gastigers’ liquor license at about 50 percent of its value.

“We made several attempts to open (lease) negotiations, but they refused to respond to our requests,” Gastiger said.

The Herlochers insisted in their letter the restaurant would not change its operations.

“The Skeller has remained a constant across 84 years and multiple operators and building owners,” the statement said. “This is the place where our shared memories live. We all want this to endure as a place that has bound people to one another across generations.”

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli