The meticulously restored Victorian-style restaurant that has anchored the Tamaqua National Historic District for the past eight years has been sold and the doors temporarily closed to business.
The Restaurant at the Station closed shop on Sunday, reportedly part of an initial step in transition to new ownership.
According to reports, the restaurant will reopen at some point in the future as "Vonz Restaurant at the Station," with new owners at the helm.
Details of the sale and the identity of the new owners haven't been disclosed. A spokesperson from building owner Tamaqua Save Our Station, Inc., (SOS) a volunteer group, said details would be announced later.
"Improvements are planned on the interior of the station and a new restaurant is expected to open early in the new year," said Dale Freudenberger, SOS secretary.
The current proprietors began vacating the building after closing on Sunday.
"We're moving everything out by Wednesday," said Sheryl Beltz, who with husband Bill, operated the full-service eatery since 2005, just months after the unveiling of the $1.5 million restoration at the 1874 Philadelphia & Reading Railroad passenger depot.
Beltz, who serves as president of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce, said the decision to leave the depot was difficult owing to many friendships forged over the years. However, the time has come to scale back a bit, she said.
"We need to refocus," she said.
The Beltzes intend to reopen the Brookside Pub in Park Place early next year, but on a smaller scale than the Tamaqua depot, said Sheryl. The Beltzes had operated Brookside Pub prior to taking on responsibilities in Tamaqua, and continued to own the Brookside Pub building since that time. She expects to open Brookside Pub for only a few nights a week as opposed to the more rigorous schedule at the Tamaqua depot.
"We'll be open Friday and Saturday nights," said Sheryl, indicating that a reduced schedule is more appropriate now that Bill, who served as chef, no longer has time to work in the restaurant business. Bill recently was called back to his primary job as Euclid heavy equipment operator for Lehigh Anthracite.
The depot restaurant had been for sale for some time and Sheryl said much care was taken to ensure that a new owner would be suitable to the unique site.
In fact, the Beltzes purposely stayed on at the depot to maintain the restaurant's service to the regional community until a new owner could be found.
As for the sale, Sheryl calls the development "a wonderful thing for everybody."
The Beltzes' gourmet Restaurant at the Station was unveiled on Feb. 17, 2005, just six months after the Aug. 1, 2004, ribbon cutting and formal dedication of the train station. The highly visible landmark is located at 18 North Railroad Street, State Route 309 South.
The restaurant operated under a lease agreement with Tamaqua SOS and quickly became a hub of downtown activity, hosting dinners, weddings, parties, receptions, political rallies, special events and concerts.
A notice posted Sunday night near the front door reads: "Everyone at the Restaurant at the Station wants to thank all of our loyal customers for the past 8 years of food, fun and most of all friendship. Our last day to serve you at this beautiful train station is Sunday, Dec. 9 ... Watch for the reopening of 'Vonz Restaurant at the Station' in the New Year. They will be honoring gift certificates you may have so hang on to them. Also, watch for the reopening of our previous location, Brookside Pub in Park Place, between Delano and Mahanoy City. We look forward to seeing you there."
As for the Tamaqua depot, those involved in the transition to a new restaurant say they expect the depot site to continue as a venue for community activities.
In fact, a notice posted to the social media site Facebook on Saturday by the Tamaqua Area Concert Series indicated that the popular Summer Concert Series "will continue in 2013 for the seventh consecutive year despite change in ownership at the restaurant."
The depot has been the traditional hub of Tamaqua activity since 1974 and is located in the heart of the Tamaqua National Historical District. It also was individually added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. It serves as a Schuylkill River Corridor Heritage Center and is home to various gift and candy shops.