From the Department of Things That Totally Don’t Shock Us comes this photo making the rounds on social media. It’s a sheriff sale sign, and the other day, it was taped to the front window of the Farmers Cabinet, that doomed Walnut Street restaurant/cocktail bar whose one owner has a — shall we say — troubling legal history that even includes a stint in federal prison.
But why dredge up all that old history? After all, co-owner Matt Swartz did his time for wire fraud. And I’m sure that he has paid off those hundreds of thousands of dollars in old judgments against him in Pennsylvania and Delaware and that he’s settled that local suit with East Falls developer Mark Sherman, his landlord at Fork & Barrel, the restaurant Swartz abruptly abandoned, supposedly “tearing out in the middle of the night.” Old news, right? Bygones!
So what’s with the sheriff sale sign indicating that the entire contents of the Farmers Cabinet will be sold off on September 23rd at noon?
Well, when I called the Farmers Cabinet the other day to find out, none of the owners were available. But the bartender I spoke with said that he didn’t see any such sign when he showed up for work that day. “I really don’t know anything about that,” he told me. “I guess someone took it down before you got to work,” I replied. “My guess would be that it’s some type of practical joke,” he offered.
Which would be awesome.
I called the Sheriff’s Office to find out if the sign was legit or an awesome practical joke. Sheriff spokesman Joe Blake told me that his office doesn’t know anything about the sign.
“But that doesn’t really mean anything,” Blake explained. “You see, the city or someone can go put that sign up, and we wouldn’t necessarily know anything yet. You see, we only come in at the tail end of the process.”
Yes, I see. So if it is real, what on earth could it be about?
Well, Swartz actually didn’t settle his suit with Sherman. The court found in favor of Sherman, ordering Swartz to pay up to the tune of $54,000. But Swartz has appealed that case to Superior Court, so that couldn’t have anything to do with the sheriff sale, if there really is a sheriff sale.
Then there’s the $45,000 judgment against Swartz, his wife Colleen and partner Matt Scheller after a recent legal battle over some real estate deal involving 824 South 8th Street, which was once James and is now the Mildred. Swartz probably wanted to open a tiki hibachi grog brewpub with naked elfin servers there. Maybe the purported sheriff sale has something to do with that.
Or, heck, I guess it could be that pesky lien that was just filed by Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor & Industry against the Grainery Restaurant Group, Swartz’s company that operates the Farmers Cabinet. According to documents filed in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court, Swartz and his pals owe the state more than $33,000 in unpaid unemployment compensation contributions.
Or, yes, maybe it is just some awesome practical joke. I, for one, am laughing.