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.