Oscar's Tavern on Feb. 20, 2018

Update Feb. 22: The bar reopened at 2 p.m. Thursday

Regulars hoping for a cheap beer and cheesesteak-and-a-half deal at Oscar’s Tavern Tuesday night went home disappointed, as the popular Center City dive had been shut down by the Philadelphia Department of Health.

A cease operations order was issued for Oscar’s as of 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 20, and five hours later the site remained locked and dark behind the yellow-and-white striped violation notice.

Per the health inspection report dated the same day, the kitchen problems were bad enough that the bar will not be allowed to reopen for at least 48 hours — at which time a $315 fee will be required for reinspection.

Cease operations notice at Oscar’s Tavern Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

The tavern, which has operated as Oscar’s at 1524 Sansom St. since 1972 — and still looks pretty much the same as it did four decades ago — has never been a bastion of proper ServSafe practices.

Previous inspections have found numerous violations, including missing sanitizer, dirty serving bowls, leakage from the dumpster out back and lack of proper signage advising of things like washing hands after using the bathroom or the health dangers of consuming alcohol while pregnant.

But this inspection found more egregious violations, enough to shut the place down.

Some of the issues the Health Dept. sanitarian found:

  • Cigarette butts on the floor in the food prep area
  • Mouse droppings on the heat lamp where food waits to be picked up by wait staff; the prep table near the meat slicer; the shelving above the meat slicer; under the counter sink
  • A live mouse in the front prep area
  • Small black flies around the floor drain and basin in the basement

The bar’s food menu is not extensive, but it is well worn.

Hundreds of Center City workers regularly take advantage of the inexpensive happy hour snacks like pierogi, fries and chicken fingers. And when you order a cheesesteak after 4 p.m., you get another half sandwich, for free.

Oscar’s general manager Joe Mullan, who’s worked at the spot since 2000 and took over most management duties for second-generation owner Richard Choudak in 2011, could not be reached for comment.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...