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Derek's in Manayunk is closed

The city Revenue Department shut it down, posting a note on its door, referring to "serious tax violations." The owner was the victim of a large embezzlement.

Derek's - at nearly 24 years old one of Manayunk's longest-running restaurants - was shut down late Wednesday by the city Revenue Department over what a notice posted on its door called "serious tax violations."

The restaurant - which opened as Sonoma in 1992 and boasted one of the city's earliest vodka bars - is closed permanently, chef/owner Derek Davis acknowledged. At one time, Davis and his then-partners had a string of Main Street restaurants from Venice Island to the East Falls end, including Kansas City Prime, Arroyo Grille/Carmella's, and Fish on Main.

The amount of the tax delinquency was not immediately apparent.

Davis said the restaurant's financial problems stemmed from a former employee's embezzlement of $280,000. Though the man pleaded guilty and was jailed and ordered to pay restitution, Davis said he has been able to barely recoup "$7.50 of it. And now, I have 40 people out of work."

"The economic pressure was just too much to recuperate from," he said.. "The restaurant had already sustained too much damage."

Not helping matters, he said, was competition - a common refrain of longtime restaurateurs.

"The piece of the pie gets smaller," Davis said. "When I opened, I was a 30-year-old guy in the right place in the right time." Manayunk's success boomed through the 1990s, only to wane after a five-year Manayunk restaurant moratorium was passed in 1997. The years saw the rise of Center City (Old City and Rittenhouse, in particular) as well as explosive growth in the mostly chain restaurant destinations of Plymouth Meeting and King of Prussia.

Davis owned the restaurant outright, having bought out his investors about a decade ago when the restaurant changed names.

Davis said he will be actively trying to place longtime employees with new employers. After taking a short break, he said he will begin to pursue new ventures.