Tangier Is Closing, May Become a Deli

Say it ain’t so. After 32 years at the corner of 18th and Lombard streets, Jack Roe has sold neighborhood fixture Tangier, including the business and the building that houses the bar.

“I’m 67 years old,” says Roe, who lives in East Falls. “And I’ve been very lucky. At what point do you start to wonder whether your luck has run its course?”

Roe purchased Tangier in 1982, but the bar had been around for decades prior. According to Roe, the bar was a popular drag queen hangout during the 1960s. Before Tangier, Roe owned JB’s Variety at 3rd and Catharine.

“I was one of the first to really promote microbrews and imported beers before that,” he remembers. “I had a letter from Dock Street saying that I sold their first keg of beer. When they started this Philly Beer Week, I thought, ‘I had Philly Beer Week here every week for 30 years. Why should I pay money to be in their thing?'”

Roe says he isn’t sure exactly what the new owners’ plans are but that he heard they want to change it into a deli with alcohol. He insists that Tangier will remain open until at least August 1st.

One source indicated that the new owners are part of the family that owns the Old Nelson delis in Philadelphia and New Jersey, and some of those locations do serve beer. Attempts to reach the new owners were unsuccessful, and the Old Nelson ownership group did not return multiple calls seeking comment.

“I don’t know who this guy is, this John Hwang,” says Roe of one of the new owners. “I have never physically spoken to the man. But this has been an extremely emotional issue with me. That’s half of my life that we’re talking about. I am not sure what his intentions are, but if they change the whole thing, that’s going to break my heart even more.”

As for the next stage in Roe’s life, he wants to open a microbrewery, perhaps on Washington Avenue. “I attempted to open a brewpub back in 1989, but I never had the wherewithal to do it,” he says. “Now I have reopened the idea to do the groundwork.”

He is currently experimenting with brewing in his backyard. “I’m using the same system Dogfish Head started on,” he notes, proudly. “But I don’t know where that’s going to wind up. One thing is for sure: If it does happen, the first brew will be named St. Mary, because my wife Mary is a saint for even letting me do any of this.”

PHOTO: Tangier Facebook Profile