Attention, Philly fans of boneless wings, cheap Fireball drinks, grill-mark-adorned steaks and comfortable karaoke sessions: Contrary to what you might have heard, the Center City Applebee’s is not shutting down. At least not anytime soon.
“We are not closing. We still have two and a half more years on our lease,” Applebee’s GM Jennifer Clouthier told Billy Penn last week. “I don’t know how that got started. I’ve been having to tell this to people all the time.”
How did the notion that the 15th and Chancellor Applebee’s was not long for this world get started? Pretty simple: Real estate firm CBRE put out a brochure touting the space as available for lease. Philly Mag saw it and published a short business post about the opportunity, and Foobooz then doubled down with a story reporting people’s lamentations (both truthful and tongue-in-cheek) for the soon-to-close store.
But Clouthier, who has been with Applebee’s franchise owner The Rose Group for six years, maintains that the location is not closing.
“I’m starting to wonder if that rumor is hurting our business,” she said. “I would love to get the word out that we are very much open.”
So yes, the place is open. But it may also be available for lease at the same time.
According to CBRE Executive Vice President Larry Steinberg, it would not be unusual for a central locale such as this, which has been occupied by the same tenant for over a decade, to begin quietly advertising availability two and a half years before a lease is actually up.
“You wouldn’t want to be too ‘out there’ with it,” he explained, “because you wouldn’t want to hurt the current business.”
Indeed, there is no “Now Leasing” sign on the property, and the location is not currently listed as available on CBRE’s website.
The Rose Group, a Newtown-based restaurant company that runs more than 56 outposts of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, did not return requests for comment on the matter. (Several voicemails left after navigating through multiple layers of automated menus were not returned, and an email garnered an auto-responder that included the message: “A reply, if warranted, may be expected within 10-14 business days of the receipt of your email.”)
Does anyone care if that Applebee’s stays or goes? Although many online reviews of the restaurant reference its usually empty dining room and lounge, it turns out there is a contingent with whom the spot is very popular: Apparently, the Thursday night karaoke is a big with certain Temple University crowds.
“Applebee’s karaoke night is very important to me,” said Temple journalism major Michaela Winberg, a Westfield, NJ, native who’s also a summer intern at Billy Penn. She’s been to the singing sesh a handful of times, she said, after originally hearing about it via the Temple Ultimate Frisbee team. Once she started attending, some of the Temple News crowd started following along.
“It’s really silly and surprisingly community-ish,” Winberg explained. “Lots of the same regulars go all the time and sing the same songs. Like what a ridiculous thing to exist, but it’s surprisingly fun. I’ll talk about Applebee’s all day.”
All day, every day — for the next two and a half years, or until someone takes the bait and jumps on the location.