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Day by Day, one of Philadelphia’s original brunch restaurants, has closed after nearly 41 years

The restaurant had its ups and downs since March 2020. Owner Robin Barg will sell the furnishings at auction.

Day by Day owner Robin Barg in front of her restaurant on March 30, 2021, as the restaurant reopened after a shutdown.
Day by Day owner Robin Barg in front of her restaurant on March 30, 2021, as the restaurant reopened after a shutdown.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Day by Day, which brought brunch to 21st and Sansom Streets in 1981, has closed, as owner Robin Barg said she had given up the fight.

She said she has been embroiled a dispute with her landlord over back rent and — in a common refrain among restaurateurs — also said she has been unable to find staff to supplement her aging workforce. “My old guys were irreplaceable,” she said Thursday.

Barg is selling her catering and restaurant items, including cookware, platters, outdoor tables and chairs, plates, cups, bowls, even a collapsible tent. An auction will be held on site from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 9 and 10, but Barg said potential buyers can scope out the items by appointment.

» READ MORE: A history of Day by Day

After an up and down 2020 under the pandemic with takeout and catering, Barg closed down in November 2020 rather than follow the city’s then-25% indoor capacity. The restaurant’s windows do not open, she said.

Meanwhile, her core of business-lunch deliveries had dried up — a fate that befell other Center City eateries. With the help of her daughter, Molly, who bakes, and a $323,960 Paycheck Protection Program loan, she reopened in April 2021, serving outdoors and resuming catering.

The summer brought optimism. Day by Day prepared lunches and dinners for the Pennsylvania Ballet and other organizations. “I figured by fall this would all be over and we’d be back,” she said.

As she began interviewing potential workers, she said, she realized that most were not vaccinated against COVID-19. “I was stunned,” Barg said.

She said she had no idea of what she would do, other than “take it easy and try to get rid of all this stuff,” she said.