Drinking Drama

by theelvee_w2oe3m

The Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley food scenes were abuzz yesterday after the closing of Emmaus establishment Tap & Table and East Falls establishment Fork & Barrel.  The owners then released a statement saying The Bookstore Speakeasy in Bethlehem would remain open and that their new spot in center city Philly, the Farmer’s Cabinet, would stay open as well.  Everyone seems to be reporting some of the info, but not all of it.  After many calls, research, a few beers, and a trip to Philly, we believe we have the best account of what went on.

Sometime on the 18th or 19th the owners abruptly shut down Fork & Barrel and Tap & Table, emptying the places completely and even leaving the landlord of Fork & Barrel shocked at the closure.  It was first reported that The Bookstore was closing as well, but that later turned out to be false, and we’ll get to why in a minute.

Promptly after the news broke former employees of Tap and Table took to this site and Foobooz to voice their frustrations at the owners, citing everything from bounced paychecks, trash laying around and not taken care of, not paying food purveyors, not paying rent, and not paying for the heat (leaving employees working in the winter in the freezing cold).  Believe what you will, but we confirmed with several honest and reputable employees that paychecks bounced and with regulars at the spot that in the winter there was a time with no heat in the establishment.

Why close everything but their new spot and The Bookstore?  Well, because the Bookstore isn’t theirs anymore.  There’s a new owner named James Richie who is listed on their liquor license.  After a search of tax records, it is revealed that a Joseph Richie, presumably a relative, owns the building.  Mr. Richie claims that the Tap&Table/Fork&Barrel/Farmer’s Cabinet team worked for them and they severed ties several months ago.  What it seems like to us, and this is speculation, but the former owners up and left the place and Richie, the landlord, took over.  This might also partially explain why their beer list got pared down so much (old owners have good relations with various distributors/importers) and why the menu switched to small bites (exec chef Peter Felton went to Farmer’s Cabinet).

We saw other sites and our readers speculating on Bahnhof in Bethlehem, the Atlantic Jazzyard in Rehoboth, and a formerly mentioned New Hope spot, all owned by the same group.  The New Hope spot was to be a bed and breakfast and the plans to buy the property fell through a long time ago.  Bahnhof, the resurrection of the closed Main Street Depot in Bethlehem, is a dead project as confirmed by co-owner Matt Scheller yesterday evening.  The Atlantic Jazzyard shut at the end of the tourism season in Rehoboth last fall.

So there it is.  It looks like this team has left the Lehigh Valley for now and the only property they maintain is The Farmer’s Cabinet in Philadelphia with a Tap & Table concept to be opening somewhere in center city in the coming future.  Now can we all just have a nice gin cocktail and reminisce about what was?

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Jake April 21, 2011 - 1:32 am

i work at the bookstore and have for a long time. if you want to know whats going on with us, stop in. We are still in business, and good things are coming.

Untitled April 21, 2011 - 3:44 pm

FYI- James Richie always held the liquor license- they were renting it from him.

The El Vee April 22, 2011 - 1:27 pm

I figured that was the case. One of the former Bookstore owners is also listed on the license, however.

David April 22, 2011 - 9:06 am

This is a shame. Bethlehem could have used a great German spot!

Penn State April 22, 2011 - 9:35 pm

I was thinking about hitting up Farmer’s Cabinet in Philly over the weekend but changed my mind, I don’t think these folks deserve anyone’s business given how they left the Valley high and dry as well as their employees. Plenty of good places to go elsewhere…

Bill April 24, 2011 - 1:17 pm

Why is it such a crime for someone to close a place when they are having a ton of success and want to refocus? There is more to the world than Emmaus and “The Valley.” I grew up here and still don’t get all the loyalty and anger when a place closes. Stop taking everything so personally.

The El Vee April 25, 2011 - 5:25 am

I don’t think it’s so much that they closed up but how they closed up and how they supposedly treated their employees that people are up in arms about.

NeCrom-X April 26, 2011 - 1:01 pm

Yea from what I heard the bartenders of Fork and Barrel found out by showing up to work with the doors locked and everything emptied out……

Restaurant Updates for April 27th, 2011 | The El Vee April 27, 2011 - 9:08 am

[…] those who loved Tap & Table won’t be without a beer bar for long.  We received a tip that the former owner of […]

BeerGeek May 1, 2011 - 2:17 pm

@Necrom. I was at Farmers’ Cab thus weekend and was greeted by at least 4 familiar faces from Firk and Barrel who said they were really happy to be there. Our bartender also told us the kitchen staff was there as well. He said the drama that is unfolding on the Internet is just that, drama. Matt and Matt have given positions to their valuable staff from both closed joints down at the Farmers’ Cab until there new place opens.

Allison June 28, 2011 - 1:43 pm

Richie definitely owns the building and I thought his son was part owner of the business there before…. element lounge?

Anyways, I heard the drink list and food items changed. The best thing to do is to go check it out for ourselves!

The Wooden Match | The El Vee July 27, 2011 - 12:49 pm

[…] that was them running Tap & Table and The Bookstore.  Well, a lot of things went down (read here if you don’t know the story) and the project was put on hold indefinitely.  Now it looks […]


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