The Rathskeller and Spats owners are willing to sell. Would the new tenants buy at the right price?

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 last call at the Rathskeller and Spats Cafe isn’t necessarily set in stone.

Duke and Monica Gastiger, who own both restaurants, said Wednesday they are willing to sell the businesses and naming rights to the new tenants. The Gastigers also do not know who the new tenants are.

The Herlocher family said they made an offer for the businesses, but were turned down. The Gastigers have also disputed that an offer was made by the Herlochers to buy the restaurants, instead saying the offer was only for the liquor license.

The Herlocher family, who bought the downtown State College property for more than $6.5 million in July, have not revealed the identity of the new tenants at their request. The Herlochers have said that the new tenants would continue to operate the Rathskeller as “you have always known it,” stressed the new tenants are Penn Staters who understand the value of the landmark’s legacy and that they are interested in retaining staff.

The Gastigers also explained on Wednesday their perspective of how the situation got to this point.

A 75-year lease ended in 2010, at which point the Gastigers and the Gentzel Corporation, the former property owner, entered into lease negotiations. Gentzel initially proposed that the rent be tripled and the Gastigers made a counteroffer, but the late Phyllis Gentzel stepped in before negotiations could proceed further and told the Gastigers to continue to adhere to the terms of the lease, which was extended to Feb. 28, 2018.

The Herlochers and Gastigers initially agreed to pursue a new lease when the property was purchased. The Herlochers informed the Gastigers via email in October that they would have to vacate the property by the end of the lease, though it said a new lease could be negotiated. The indication that a new lease could be worked out was a mistake, according to a November email, which was sent to the Gastigers and said that there would be no negotiations for a new lease.

The Herlochers, who declined comment Wednesday, noted in Tuesday’s statement that at some point it was “clear that the current operator arrangement would not continue, (so) we carefully considered the next steps” and said that their purchase prevented the building from demolition and redevelopment.

The Herlocher family also called the Rathskeller a “community treasure.”

“The Skeller has remained a constant across 84 years and multiple operators and building owners,” the Herlochers 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.”

With the building intact — and the Herlochers have said they are not going to tear it down to rebuild — there might be a silver lining if the new tenants are interested in buying the businesses and names. That much is unknown.

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli