A popular Center City Belgian restaurant was closed indefinitely yesterday after a man died and a woman was critically injured when they fell four stories from a fire escape.
Code enforcement officials evacuated the building at 264 S. 16th St. and shuttered Monk's Cafe until the building owner corrects structural problems.
Police said Steven Lee, 25, and an unidentified female friend were leaning on a metal railing in the masonry fire tower attached to the back of the building when the railing gave way about 3 a.m.
Lee, who lived in an apartment in the building, was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital with internal injuries and was listed in critical condition, police said.
Her name was not released.
A Monk's employee found the victims in a narrow alley next to the building after hearing a "loud unexplained thump," said Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman.
Scott Mulderig, an official with the Department of Licenses and Inspections, said the building's 13 tenants had to move out and the restaurant was closed until the owner corrects structural problems and code violations.
Mulderig, chief of the department's emergency services unit, identified the owner of the building as Bruce Brotman. According to city land records, Brotman's relatives bought the building in 1976 and it is now held by a corporation owned by the family.
Tenants, cafe staff, and Brotman are scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Friday to discuss the building's problems, Mulderig said. He said he expected the repairs would take at least two weeks.
The structural problems include loose railings on the other floors of the tower and deteriorating concrete ledges like the one from which the man and woman fell, Mulderig said.
Inspectors identified several code violations in September 2008, including a lack of exit signs, that remain uncorrected, Mulderig said. He also said inspectors were requesting proof that the fire alarm system was recertified earlier this month.
Most of the tenants had friends or relatives to stay with, Mulderig said. Any remaining tenants would be moved to another Brotman property on Spring Garden Street, pending inspection of that building.
After word spread of Monk's indefinite closure, an employee began removing bottles from the window that boast of the establishment's wide beer selection. For at least a week or two, lovers of mussels and frites may have to look elsewhere.
Ralph Fisher, 60, who lives on the building's third floor, said tenants often went to the fire escape to have a smoke.
"I don't think they were doing anything stupid, just hanging out," he said.