Then put your little hand in mine

There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb


I’ve got you babe

Ok campers, rise and shine. And don’t forget your booties, ’cause it’s cold out there today. It’s cold out there every day, what is this, Miami Beach? Not hardly. And you can expect hazardous travel today, with that blizzard thing.

A little too on the nose, woodchuck chuckers? Maybe. Nevertheless, in honor of today’s holiday, which has already indicated that we’ll be getting 6 more weeks of winter, we have a story for you that feels a wee bit familiar. Downey’s Pub is for sale. Or for lease. And it isn’t the first time.

Downey's Pub

Downey’s Pub first opened in the 1970s at 526 S. Front St., and by all accounts, it had a terrific run. After all, how many restaurants can you think of in Philadelphia that lasted from the bicentennial through Y2K? The list ain’t long, folks. The original owner sold the business in 2003, and things took a turn for the worse after a few years. The restaurant appeared on Bar Rescue in 2011 and ultimately closed its doors in 2016 in the face of back taxes and an impending sheriff’s sale. In advance of the sheriff’s sale, the bar was available for about $3M, but nobody bought it at the time.

The building finally sold at sheriff’s sale in 2017 for $1.15M. Some quick mental math shows that’s less than $3M, so it seems that patience worked out for the current owners. Those owners are obviously not interested in pushing through in the restaurant business though, as they are looking for a tenant or a buyer for their property. The building was available for $12K/mo back in 2018, and now it’s listed for $7K/mo. Or someone could buy it for $3M (which sounds familiar).

The space is huge but apparently need a ton of work, so we can understand why someone hasn’t snatched up the space as of yet. Oh, and there’s that pesky global pandemic which has done a number of restaurants and would definitely complicate anyone’s plans to open a new place at the old Downey’s space. Compounding the challenge is the fact that South Street is having a really tough go of things since Covid, so foot traffic is going to take some time to tick back up. In addition, the fact that there’s just I-95 to the east presents another barrier for foot traffic.

IMG_7919 2
Parking lot across the street
526 S Front Aerial
Aerial view from an old listing

All that being said, we imagine someone will eventually buy or rent this space and there’s absolutely a path for success. The space is huge, and there simply aren’t that many big restaurants out there. And once vaccinations start rolling, we expect a huge burst of commerce which will fill restaurants and empty bank accounts, and this may last for years. And don’t forget, Penn’s Landing has a major renovation upcoming which will increase the vibrancy of the Delaware waterfront and could bring additional people to this area as well. One restaurant had a forty year run here, once. We don’t know that another operator will have the same longevity, but if it happened before it could happen again.

Then put your little hand in mine

There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb…