Philly food and drink scene

Want to be Vetri’s landlord? The restaurant’s building is for sale

The current asking price for 1312 Spruce St. hasn’t been revealed.

1312 Spruce St. in Philadelphia

1312 Spruce St. in Philadelphia

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

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Over the past half-century, the elegant rowhouse at 1312 Spruce St. has been home to a string of Philadelphia’s most critically acclaimed restaurants. During that time, the building has been owned or managed by the same family, but it could soon change hands.

As of last week, 1312 Spruce is on the market.

How much will it cost you to scoop up the building that introduced French dining to the city with La Panetière, birthed George Perrier’s world-renowned Le Bec-Fin, and has been known as the charmed address of Marc Vetri’s eponymous Italian dining room since 1998? Unclear.

There’s no set offering price for the Washington Square West address, according to realtors at CBRE, which is handling the listing.

“It was a corporate decision to sell our holdings in Philadelphia, Pa.,” said landlord Michael Yelson, whose father-in-law purchased the Washington Square West townhome back in 1967. Six months ago, he added, it “was put up for sale for $3 million and then it was taken off. Then the agent put it up for sale again last week.”

The property, which sits just off Broad Street’s theater-rich Avenue of the Arts stretch, is assessed at slightly above $710,000, per city records. That number has increased 12% over the past five years — a slower growth rate than the citywide average appreciation of 27% — so it’s understandable if the owners believe the property is undervalued.

How undervalued is a bigger question. Yelson said that personally, he voted to hold onto 1312 Spruce, but his corporate board had other ideas.

“Marlen Corporation decided to sell,” explained the realtor, referencing the umbrella company under which he works and where he is listed as secretary. “We wanted Marc [Vetri] to buy the property, as it’s his home away from home and has history for him.”

Vetri, a multiple James Beard Award winner who grew his first-floor dining room to a full building operation with offices, a show kitchen, and private dining room — plus a second outpost in Las Vegas and several other ventures — said he’d been offered the chance to buy the building several times in the past, but was never able to agree on a price.

After a nearly-completed deal to buy the property for $850k eight years ago fell through, Vetri said, he was offered the chance in 2017 to buy it for $3.5 million. “I told him no thanks.”

Is anyone buying during a pandemic?

There’s been a slight slowdown in the progress of sales in Philly since the lockdown began in March, CBRE brokers told Billy Penn. While they expressed uncertainty about what the long-term impact on commercial real estate will be, a recent industry report showed things might not be as bad here as elsewhere.

“In the short term, Philadelphia might fare better than other metro regions,” CBRE senior field research manager Joe Gibson told WHYY’s PlanPhilly.

For fans of Vetri hoping to dine there once coronavirus restrictions loosen, this potential sale is nothing to worry about.

Marc Vetri and business partner Jeff Benjamin have another 14 years left on their lease, Vetri said. And though the restaurant doors are currently shuttered, if you catch one of the flash sales posted on Instagram, you can order a ready-to-cook version of the famous tasting menu, then pick it up and do your best 1312 Spruce St. impression at home.

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