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Tavern's close signals the end of an era

This article was originally published July 1, 2001.

This article was originally published July 1, 2001.

The Triangle Tavern, a South Philadelphia institution that roared to life on weekend nights, when Genevieve the waitress delivered Patsy Cline tunes along with pasta and mussels, and senior citizen crooner Tony Dell covered Springsteen and the Stones, has closed.

"We were losing money," said Diane Bannach, who started as a bus girl 30 years ago and rose to the position of manager. "Our regulars are just crushed. I'm crushed. "

The tavern was founded on a point of land at 10th and Reed Streets in 1933 by Antonio Patrone, an Italian immigrant who also owned a limousine company and a farm in New Jersey.

His grandson, Anthony T. Praietta, the current owner, had talked of closing the tavern for some time as business fell off, Bannach said. He plans to sell the bar.

Praietta was out of town Friday and unreachable by phone, Bannach said.

"This business is based on volume and we don't have the volume anymore," she said. "It's not three-deep anymore; you can walk in and get a table. "

The growth of nightlife on South Street and Delaware Avenue cut into the Triangle's business, as did the changing habits of customers, Bannach said.

At one time, the Triangle could count on a crush of patrons before and after games at Veterans Stadium, Bannach said.

"At the games now, they tailgate," she said. "It's a tough business. "

Still, the regulars - college students and old-timers from across the region - loved the spectacle that unfolded on Friday and Saturday nights.

Before Dell - who has been known to vamp as Madonna - there was Dusty Gale, a character in tennis shoes who filled the place with laughter and song, and developed a cult following along the way. He died in 1994.

Entertainment was the weekend draw, but the tavern served Italian food daily: ravioli, lasagna, calamari. The mussels the Triangle staff served were cleaned in a 1940s-era washing machine to get the sand out.

The bar opened every morning at 7, when regulars would stop in for a shot and a beer before work.

Bannach said she hopes Praietta will rethink his decision to close the tavern after he gets through divorce proceedings. Last Sunday was the tavern's last night.

"It was so sad the last night," Bannach said. "I hope he will reopen. "

The phone at the bar has been ringing constantly. Bannach said she checks messages three times a day, and there are 15 or 20 each time. Many calls are from distraught customers, who feel as empty without the Triangle as Bannach does.

Others are from people in the neighborhood who seem incapable of believing the Triangle would close.

"Some ladies, they don't even hear the message," Bannach said. "They just want to order a pizza. "