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?