R2L — chef Daniel Stern’s splashy restaurant and lounge with the million-dollar view from the 37th floor of Two Liberty Place — has closed permanently, staff was told Tuesday. It was a victim of the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered dining rooms and thrown the restaurant industry into a tailspin.
Staff, which was idled on March 16, had been paid for eight weeks through the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, said a former manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Stern and partner Sue Mahoney did not reply to text messages Tuesday and Wednesday, and a representative of the building’s operator, Coretrust Management, declined to comment.
The self-taught, Cherry Hill-bred Stern burst onto the Center City scene in 2002 as the executive chef at Le Bec-Fin — the first American hired to run the kitchen at Georges Perrier’s landmark restaurant at 1523 Walnut St., now a Warby Parker eyeglass store.
Perrier was in great distress at the time, after Mobil Travel Guide (now Forbes Travel Guide) had demoted Le Bec-Fin from five stars to four. Perrier dismissed Stern 20 months later, after Stern had helped the restaurant regain the fifth star.
Stern went on to open a boutique restaurant in Queen Village called Gayle, as well as Rae, an American bistro, in the lobby of the Cira Centre in University City. Both closed in 2009. Around the time of R2L’s debut, Stern opened MidAtlantic, billed as a tavern, in the Science Center at 3711 Market St. It closed in 2012.
R2L, which replaced the old mailroom of building tenant Cigna Corp., was Philadelphia’s loftiest public restaurant until the Four Seasons Philadelphia opened last year, offering views to Philadelphia diners not seen since the nearby Top of Centre Square closed in 1993. (The Pyramid Club, which offers some public dining, is on the 52nd floor of the BNY Mellon Center.)
R2L’s first event was a New Year’s party ushering in 2010.
“Simply getting there is part of the allure,” Inquirer critic Craig LaBan wrote in his first review of R2L in 2010. “Diners pass through a discreet hallway in the Liberty Two lobby [off 16th Street near Market], step into a dedicated elevator, then – whoosh! The doors open onto Snazzyville. Jazz fills the air. The swelling buzz of a crowd leads you around the corner, where white-clad chefs hustle inside the glassed-in kitchen beside the corridor. And then the room opens up onto the lounge, where a hive of slinky party dresses and pinstripe suits sip classic cocktails while the setting sun melts like a maraschino cherry over the western horizon.”