August is proving to be a cruel month for Monk's Cafe in Center City, which Tuesday had to close its doors temporarily for the second time in a year due to a freak accident.
A SEPTA bus plowed into the side of the popular Belgian restaurant and beer bar near 16th and Spruce Streets early Tuesday morning, crushing the entrance to the pub and forcing the evacuation of more than a dozen apartments above.
No passengers were on the bus when it crashed shortly before 2 a.m., and the few patrons and employees inside Monk's were not injured. The bus driver and two Delaware River Port Authority officers, who were in a police SUV that was also involved in the crash, suffered minor injuries.
The crash came almost a year after an iron railing on a fire escape on the back of the four-story building gave way, causing a 25-year-old man to fall to his death. The Aug. 31, 2009, collapse also left a woman seriously injured, and led the city to start conducting spot code-compliance checks of Philadelphia's smaller apartment buildings.
Monk's co-owner Tom Peters said the restaurant would reopen for business within a week or two.
The owner of the building has hired an engineer and brick company to repair the damage, according to the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections. The city has met with the owners and will meet with them again on Friday to make a final determination as to whether the building is safe.
In the meantime, tenants are staying elsewhere and have been allowed to return only to collect pets, clothes, and other items.
Emerson Bartlett, 26, who lives on the third floor, arrived home around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday to find a crowd outside the building.
"Some people are upset, but it's been more of an inconvenience than anything," said Bartlett, who has lived in the building since January. "It's frustrating to not be allowed in your own home. But no one was hurt, and that's the main thing."
Investigators have said they were not yet sure what caused the accident. Ed Kasuba, a DRPA spokesman, said the police officers were responding to a 911 call for help from a woman in or near the PATCO High-Speed Line station at 16th and Locust Streets early Tuesday morning. At some point the police car apparently struck a pole across the street from Monk's.
Gary Fairfax, a SEPTA spokesman, said it appeared that a No. 2 bus hit the front of the pub after it swerved to avoid the police vehicle.
The pub's front window was spared, but the entrance and hallway leading to the restaurant lay in a pile of bricks Tuesday afternoon.
The sight of the partially collapsed facade drew gawkers on Tuesday, and many passersby stopped to snap pictures with camera phones.
"That place has bad karma lately," said one man as he passed by.
Rosanne Barrett, who lives around the corner, hurried to get closer Tuesday morning when she saw something had happened at Monk's.
"From a distance it looked like the whole front of the building was coming down," she said. "What a shame, but thank goodness nobody got hurt."