August 10, 2010 - At approximately 2:15 a.m. on this quiet Tuesday morning, a SEPTA bus crashed into the front wall of Monk’s Café & Beer Emporium, the world-class Belgian beer bar and restaurant, located at 16th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Owner Tom Peters was in the back of the establishment when the incident occurred. “There was quite a loud noise,” he said. “It was startling.”
A cloud of masonry dust filtered through the air as Peters moved quickly through the restaurant to shuffle guests outside and across the street, a safe distance away from the scene. Four guests were in the front bar when it happened, but no one was injured. Those in the back bar, seven in all, did not hear the commotion, but moved quickly with Peters’ urgent message: “Everyone needs to leave … right … now.”
He moved methodically through the building, directing a remarkably responsive staff as they ensured that everyone was out of the restaurant, basement, and bar areas and the gas was turned off. In less than five minutes everyone was safe. “I was really proud about how quick they acted,” Peters continued. “We handled it in the best possible way.”
Firemen moved through the upper floor apartments, banging on doors to awaken residents. Approximately eight people have been temporarily moved to other locations until the gaping wall can be closed up and the repairs approved by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections.
In the initial moments after the crash, Peters observed the south wall of the building pressed against the front wall amidst the rubble of red brick and mortar. The SEPTA bus and a Delaware River Port Authority police SUV collided, sliding into Monks like it was home base at Citizens Park. Two police officers and the SEPTA driver were taken to the hospital for observation, but have been released without serious injuries. There were no passengers on the bus.
Tom Peters of Monk’s Café has to be the most optimistic guy in the City of Brotherly Love. Running on adrenaline and big-hearted concern for his staff and the displaced residents, he has moved quickly to assemble a competent team to expedite the repairs. Police, fireman, L&I people, and construction crews coordinated efforts and have already initiated steps toward getting Monks back in operation.
Peters and his landlord meet with the Structural Engineer on Wednesday morning. Work crews have already installed a wall brace, and have begun clearing brick and debris from the site. The Monk’s publican believes all will be back in place by Friday or Saturday, but expects the worst case scenario would be Tuesday, August 17th. With an incredibly upbeat attitude, Peters is already making plans to cook and serve already-prepped items to the highly-motivated builders. At the end of this first day, he gave crews two six-packs of Sly Fox Pilsner in thanks for their efforts. As a passionate believer in "better beer," he did have an ulterior motive. With a chuckle, he exclaimed, “I’m gonna’ make beer geeks out of these construction guys yet!”
Photos are (from top): Monk's Cafe after the crash (courtesy of Aljeandro A. Alvarez & Philadelphia Daily News); Tom Peters of Monk's Cafe