A financial planner and a biochemical engineer walk into a bar. What happens next? In the case of one of Northern Liberties’ longest-running taverns, the established professionals take a good look around, recall the camaraderie of their youth, and decide to buy it.
Gina and Sean Butler-Galliera will be the new owners of The 700 Club, which went up for sale last fall after 21 years at the corner of 2nd and Fairmount.
It’s a homecoming for the husband and wife duo, who’ve spent the past two decades in Los Angeles. Before decamping for California, they were part of the crew that helped lead Philly’s early gastropub boom — Sean as a bartender at the Khyber and Trocadero, and Gina as his trusty sidekick who always kept the party going.
“As a couple, they share a great capacity for ridiculousness and fun,” said Tracy Stanton, who cofounded The 700 with partner Kurt Wunder in 1997. “When they would come in the bar, I knew a great time was coming.”
The Butler-Gallieras made a point of stopping through every time they were in town, which was at least once a year to visit family in the area, they said. Gina had already been considering moving away from the pharma industry when they heard The 700 was for sale.
“Oh my gosh everything’s coming together,” she recalled thinking, explaining that the move out west was always supposed to be temporary. “How can we say no to this opportunity?”
A visit over the Christmas holiday solidified the couple’s intentions.
Details on their bid were not disclosed, but the asking price was $1.35 million for the business and land, which carries an assessed value of $256,600 and was originally purchased for just $35,000, according to city records.
The Butler-Gallieras’ offer was one of the earliest Stanton received, he said, though he didn’t really think it would come to fruition, both because they lived so far away and because they had successful careers outside the bar game.
“In my mind, they had grown past their young adults lives and have become professionals — the goal of anyone looking to get out of the service industry,” Stanton said. “I couldn’t fathom why they wanted my and Kurt’s little corner bar. The conclusion that I came to is that Philadelphia is home to them and that they are people that value real connections.”
Indeed, Sean and Gina said they intend to make running the bar their full-time job. They also plan few changes, at least at the start.
“It’s not the kind of thing where we’re going to buy and flip it,” Sean said, adding that the 22-year-old pub “could definitely use an injection of energy” while confirming that all current staff will be invited to stay on. The 700 Club name will also stand.
They described the neighborhood as on an upswing, noting that after a turn-of-the-millennium boom it experienced a flattening thanks to retail misfires at projects like the Piazza.
“It’s cyclical,” said Gina, who lived with Sean in a Fishtown loft in the 1990s before they got married on a boat on the Delaware. “I don’t think it’s peaked yet.”
For Stanton, the sale is bittersweet. He’s happy it will provide some financial security for Wunder and family — Wunder’s year-and-a-half battle with cancer is one of the reasons the cofounders are turning things over — but he wishes they were leaving choice and not by medical necessity.
“It is impossible to think of our 700 without [Wunder] at its helm and I don’t want to,” Stanton said. Yet he’s happy for the opportunity to build a bigger house in NoLibs for his cramped family, and he won’t be completely cut off yet as he provides consulting for the new owners, of whom he’s a big fan.
“They are wonderful people and we are all lucky that they are coming back to us,” he said. “Sean is more subdued and Gina is a firecracker. Her laugh is loud and lovely and they both have smiles the size of Texas.”
The Butler-Gallieras will celebrate with a big party at the bar when the transaction is finalized, they said. Still pending is the liquor license transfer, per LCB records, as well as the exact sale figure.
Whatever amount the two sides’ lawyers negotiate, Sean said, there will be one sure thing about the final selling price: it will end in “700.”