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One bid in Coaldale

  • Barry Navarre of Orefield, Lehigh County, inspects a light fixture before the auction of Costello's restaurant in Coaldale on Saturday.
    Barry Navarre of Orefield, Lehigh County, inspects a light fixture before the auction of Costello's restaurant in Coaldale on Saturday.
Published June 01. 2011 05:15PM

A West Penn Township tavern owner on Saturday offered the sole bid $30,000 for the landmark Costello's restaurant at 100 E. High St., Coaldale.

Bob Carnes, who owns the Clamtown Tavern, offered the sole bid for the restaurant at an auction held Saturday. But Carnes as of early Wednesday had yet to hear whether the Costello family would accept the bid.

Efforts to reach Costello family members were unsuccessful.

If they do accept his bid, Carnes said, he'll keep the restaurant and its bar open, and would even consider keeping the Costello name, if the family agrees.

"I'm very excited, very happy, if this goes through," Carnes said. He said he would transfer the liquor license first thing in order to open the bar immediately.

Carnes on Saturday bought most of the restaurant's equipment, furniture and supplies.

Some of the items, including fryers, grills and broilers, will be used for the Clamtown Tavern's new restaurant, set to open Thursday.

"I didn't go there to buy the building. I went there to buy equipment for my restaurant," he said. "But I love the history of the place, and I have the background and the people to make it happen."

Among the items Carnes bought for pennies on the dollar were boxes of Costello's menus.

"Their menu is very, very similar to ours," he said. Both feature fresh cut steaks and seafood.

He's owned the Clamtown Tavern for three years and seven months, he said.

Carnes said that if he does become the new owner, he has no immediate plans to change anything at Costello's.

"The place is gorgeous," he said.

Arner Auctioneers offered the restaurant at noon Saturday, near the end of the sale, which began at 9 a.m. The auction drew a good crowd, some of whom were clearly in the restaurant business and bid hard for the boxes of dishes, utensils, stock pots, baking pans, table candles, servers, warming trays, coffee makers and other equipment.

The bidding for the restaurant itself started at $250,000. With no offers, the price quickly plummeted to $40,000. That's when Carnes, who stood surrounded by cardboard boxes of cups and saucers, pots and pans, offered the $30,000.

On May 21, Arner's auctioned off the contents of the apartments above the restaurant, where Stanley Costello Sr. and his wife Ann, lived. At that auction, Carnes bought the original cash register, built for restaurant founder Joseph Costello, on April 17, 1926.

The restaurant took root when Stanley Costello Sr.'s father, Joseph, bought the property in the early 1920s, intending to turn it into a bar. But Joseph Costello died in 1932, a year before prohibition ended. Anna Costello, with seven children to support and determined to fulfill her late husband's dream, applied for a liquor license.

Eventually, her son Stanley Jr., an outgoing and musically gifted young man who played the violin for his customers, took over the tavern. He expanded the bar in 1948, and two years later, opened the restaurant, which became famous for its seafood and was the popular venue for wedding receptions and other gatherings.

Ann Costello died in 1962. Stanley Sr., now in his early 90s, lives in a local care home. The restaurant operation was passed on to Stanley Jr. and his wife, Angela, who was the restaurant's president, stockholder, director and secretary, according to Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board records.

Costello's closed early this year.

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