As Talks Continue, The Pub Closes A Prospective Buyer And Workers Are Negotiating. The Famed Steak House Dates To The 1950s.

Posted: March 27, 1999

PENNSAUKEN — The owner of the Pub restaurant closed the South Jersey landmark last night and said it would not reopen unless the union representing about 85 employees worked out a deal with a businessman hoping to buy the steak house.

Owner Gary Perez said that if would-be purchaser Marc Gelman and Local 54 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union did not reach an agreement, he would try to sell the property to a developer.

``Right now, the union and the purchaser are negotiating to try to come to a contract,'' said Perez, whose father-in-law, the late George Wolfman, opened the Pub at the Airport Circle in 1953. ``If they come to a contract, we'll reopen.''

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED MARCH 30, 1999, FOLLOWS: Marc Gelman, the prospective buyer of the Pub Restaurant, is not an owner of Copperfield's in Mount Laurel, as was reported in Saturday's South Jersey editions of The Inquirer.

He said that could happen as early as next week.

``We are in the process of working out some kind of agreement where we reopen Monday or Tuesday and move forward from there,'' said Al Cohen, union vice president.

Gelman, owner of Gelmarc Distributors Inc., a Cherry Hill-based restaurant-supply firm, as well as Copperfields restaurant in Mount Laurel and Merion Caterers in Cinnaminson, did not respond to requests for comment.

Employees said they were informed of the closing when they reported for work yesterday. They said they were surprised because it came just before one of the busiest days of the year - Palm Sunday.

Perez announced the sale to Gelman last month. The purchase price has not been disclosed. Perez has said Gelman planned to keep the Pub, which is noted for its charbroiled beef, as it was.

The liquor license was supposed to be transferred to Gelman at a Pennsauken Township meeting Wednesday night, but the measure authorizing the transfer was withdrawn.

Perez said the transfer date is now set for April 28.

The postponement came a day after an arbitrator ruled that a new owner would have to assume the contract covering unionized employees at the steak house.

Cohen said Gelman had proposed reductions in contract areas. The proposals were preliminary, Cohen said.

``We'll do everything we can in our members' best interests,'' he said.

Cohen said Gelman sought the reductions because he was assuming a huge mortgage to buy the Pub while the current owners have owned it outright for years.

At the Pub yesterday, Maria Boughton, a regular customer for two decades, said the possibility of the Pub closing left her with an ``empty feeling.''

``I feel for the people who have been working here for years and years,'' said Boughton, of Marlton. ``We've wined and dined here many times. We brought the kids here for holidays. I hate to see it close.''

In August, Perez had threatened to close the Pub in a dispute with the union over unspecified safety concerns at the restaurant.

The Pub was the last of five restaurants that George Wolfman and two partners opened in the early 1950s. The four others were in Philadelphia.

Until chain steak houses such as Lone Star and Outback started dotting the landscape, the Pub and since-closed Chubby's in West Collingswood Heights were the places to go in Camden County for charbroiled steaks and burgers.

On Sundays, the cavernous dining room often was packed, while people waiting for a table filled the spacious lounge.

Thanks to its proximity to Camden, the restaurant also has been a gathering place for county politicians and hangers-on.

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