Without a Liquor License, Union Trust Closes

It has been twenty months since the $12 million Union Trust declared bankruptcy, with owner Joe Grasso telling me on more than one occasion since that business at the steakhouse is good. But today, as the case continues to wind its way through bankruptcy court, the doors are closed.

The orange sign on the door reads “TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR PLUMBING REPAIRS”, and there is a pile of mail inside. There’s also a piece of wood barricading the doors from the inside, preventing entrance from the street, even with a key. According to another sign on the door, a GlaxoSmithKline dinner scheduled for Wednesday night had to be relocated to Smith & Wollensky.

I called Grasso at his office. “Joe said to tell you that we plan to open in a few days,” said his assistant. “And that there are mechanical problems.”

There may be mechanical problems — or plumbing problems, as the sign on the door indicates — but there’s also the small problem of the restaurant’s liquor license, which is inactive, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Liquor licenses in Philadelphia expire on October 31st of each year. Renewal is a snap. You just pay a renewal fee and, voila, your license is renewed for another year — unless, of course, you’re ineligible for renewal. According to documents filed in bankruptcy court, the state is refusing to renew Union Trust’s liquor license, because Union Trust owes the state some $225,000 in taxes.

Earlier today, I emailed Grasso to ask him if the state tax liens are the real reason for the closure. He has not responded.

I guess he could reconceptualize as the world’s most expensive BYOB.

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  • Nina

    Womp, womp! who cares

  • CM

    Weird. There are bars in Old City (Craft&Claw/Mad River, Red Zone, Club 27) whose liquor licenses weren’t renewed either, but have still been operating and selling liquor after October 31.

  • Michael G

    Surprised it lasted this long. It would make an incredible night club and with the lack of rediential on the block it would work but I don’t see it slipping past Washington Square West civic.

  • employee abc

    haha. from an insider… I wish they knew the real bull shit that went on behind the doors.
    if the author of this article would like to know, find a way to contact is and I’ll let you know what
    we as a staff are told. it’s a joke.

  • Christian Vanneque

    I wonder how much the City is owed?

  • Nightman

    Another Grasso Brothers bust. 1601 Vine, House of Blues anyone

  • CM

    Do tell, Employee Abc…

  • Really?

    Uhhh, Mike G there are many residential apartments on the block. What I’m curious about is how they threw a huge party there on Sunday with no liquor license?

  • employee abc

    or how they have had dinner service every night since 0ct 31 when their liquor license expired. fines?

    or will Grasso get out of this just like everything else.. he does have power of his personal money.

  • How does Anyone think a place This BIG is ever gonna be full enough of patrons to pay it’s bills? That huge ceiling accentuates the apparent emptiness when there’s not 350 folks in there, and the last time That happened was their grand opening. I still don’t know how DelFrisco’s does it, unless their corporate masters enjoy losing $$$, because it’s the same dog with similar fleas [like Reserve]. I don’t wish failure on Anybody, but youse smart guys in The Biz should know to start small to medium, sell out a limited menu, Pay Your Bills and then build on That. And have a rockin’ Happy Hour. Last question-Which of these places [allegedly] had strippers coming to Happy Hour to give the place some Vibe?

  • emoyee lmnop

    The antics of UT are dishonest, dishonorable and illegal..they have been lying to employees and guests since day one…they dont deserve the right to operate a business..and its amazing how paychecks dont clear but grasso drives a bentley

  • employee UT

    UT hasnt been honest with employees and guests ever..they dont serve prime meats..they put cheap vodka in grey goose bottles and paychecks dont always clear..i hope grasso is banned from business in philadelphia and happy for the employees since the lies are almost over

  • IndustryInsider

    Good riddance. Despite being “connected” (ahem), perhaps the coffin will close on Grasso’s behemoth joke. There are a bunch of condo and apartment dwellers on the block who will be delighted at the news, and will thank God for delivering them from the illegal nightclub activity and bridge and tunnel trash that place draws.

  • Employee123

    The lies are finally coming to an end…

  • UTfan

    I actually thought they did a pretty good job. I see that some employees are commenting…. Can any of them tell us if they will ever receive a final paycheck??? Great timing, Mr. Grasso! Leave your employees high and dry just in time for Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays!

  • HalfRight

    An inactive status on the PLCB website does not guarantee an establishment is not licensed to serve. It often means it is still under review by the “gifted” administators at the LCB. Operators are often granted temporary operating status licenses while the matter is further reviewed by the licensing department.

    You are correct though that it’s usually the first shoe to hit the ground shortly before the final one.

    I have no knowledge about Union Trust in any way. Didn’t seem like bad people or operation to me as an outsider.

  • GLL

    Grasso is piker and a liar and couldn’t manage a newspaper route let alone and over-priced restaurant.

    The whole Grasso family is a small-time train wreck and it’s actually funny to watch them pretend to be serious business owners and real estate “developers”.

  • pj

    employee abc: lets hear what really went on at UT. Too many restaurant owners take advantage of their employees and most patrons never know how the staff is treated.

  • EmployeeXyZ

    What a sad state of affairs….Employees checks haven”t cleared for over three weeks, Servers are owed thousands of dollars in tips. Where is the money going? Hopefully Judge Coleman opens her eyes and realizes the true deceit that is really happening at “Union Trust.” Who gives a “#$%^” about tax credits and big business…this is affecting a lot of hardworking people. Hopefully Mr. Grasso can enjoy his Bentley over the holidays while his former dedicated staff can scrape ends meet to pay their rent, buy food and pay their bills (UT never did). So sad. Hopefully evryone can collect unemployment and move on.

  • Eric

    These amateurs couldn’t run a handful of coffee ships without going bankrupt, not sure why the Grassos thought they could operate a full-blown restaurant.

  • Jason Michael

    I am a former employee, and still waiting for my final paycheck since my last one did not clear. It’s a damn shame because it was a great place to work and the food was great. I would go back in a heartbeat, but they need to get their financial shit in order. All the chefs and waitstaff in there were great and very passionate about their jobs, and they all deserve their jobs there, instead of now being out of work.

  • Broad Street Billy

    As an employee of Union Trust for the past two years, it has been a stretch as of late. Things COULD HAVE been amazing there. Great space, great food, with passionate chefs, bartenders and wait staff. The biggest issue was with our pay, since April paychecks were on-time only three times, the late paychecks turned into bounced paychecks when we did get them, and now the checks are non-existent. Last Friday, 11/23 was supposed to be a pay day. No one has been told when or if we will ever get our money. Grasso and his gifted accountants have much to answer for, yet will answer no phone calls. Interesting that the restaurant didn’t have a working cappuccino machine for over a month, and Grasso owns (or used to own)Saxbys coffee. Grasso also tied our managements’ hands by not giving them proper supplies or funding, eventually firing all but one to run the place alone. Communication was lacking and the furthest thing from transparent to say the least. We all found out more about the tax problems and liquor license by reading this article. Grasso is the biggest con. What a joke. Time to go find a new job, I’m not waiting around for a paycheck that will probably never materialize. Happy Holidays!