Another Dive Bar Down, Though This Might Actually Be A Good Thing

Last week, I told you about the pending closure of Northern Liberties’ last (real) dive bar, Jerry’s, and I heard from a surprising number of people who lamented the passing of an old neighborhood hang to make room for more upscale development. But this week, another bar-closing in question probably doesn’t evoke quite so much nostalgia.

For years, Cheers, right around the corner from the Tower Theatre, was a thorn in the side of the Upper Darby Police Department, which, in this November article in Philly Mag, indicated that their officers were called to the bar over 350 times between 2007 and 2010. At about once every four days, I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of record. After a murder in the bar last March, Upper Darby’s hardcore Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood, who has never had a problem voicing his opinion, came out swinging, publicly calling the bar a “criminal enterprise”.

This comment didn’t sit well with the bar’s, shall we say, “colorful” 70-year old owner, Bob Herdelin, (pictured, sitting in Cheers) known in the area as Herky. A former All-American basketball player, local hero (in 2008, he singlehandedly captured the U.S. Marshall’s 4th Most Wanted while wearing flip-flops), and self-made multi-millionaire with several manses at the Shore, Herky was quick to point out that he’s not guilty of any crime, as the “criminal enterprise” comment could reasonably suggest, and also quick to file a $1.7 million libel suit against the superintendent.

The case continues to make its way through Delaware County Court (the judge has struck down Chitwood’s preliminary objections – not a good sign for him), and Herky says that he’s set on going to trial. “The Atlantic Ocean would have to freeze over before I’d settle,” he promises. “It’s going to be a jury trial, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

As for the notorious dive at the center of the controversy, Herky just closed the doors, after Cheers was hit with a $2,100 fine for, among other things, serving minors and a gambling-on-premises violation. He says he’s sold the bar, building, and liquor license to a new owner, who is remodeling, for $500,000 cash, and that he has no intention of getting back into the bar business – not that he’d need it.

“Just today, I got two signed leases for my Avalon property, each for $37,000 for two weeks,” Herke bragged to me this morning. “A $75,000 Wednesday ain’t too shabby.”