MANCHESTER- The parking lot was full at the Sirloin Saloon Monday, Oct. 15, as everything from the furniture and fixtures to the kitchen sink went to the highest bidder.
An auction of items at the former restaurant drew a crowd of more than 125 bidders, and nearly everything in the building, nailed down or not, was sold. Among those in attendance were other local restaurant owners and curious local residents who wanted to get one last glance inside the Sirloin Saloon, a local dining and entertainment landmark for more than half a century.
"I just came hear to look around and see what's happening," said Herb Kalish, a local Manchester resident. "We've had some great times here, some very good meals, big gatherings, small gatherings.
Other business owners saw this as an opportunity to capture a bargain or two and take advantage of what the building had to offer.
"Equipment can be a major expense, tables and chairs, and the auction prices are always better than the fair market price," said Bob Herbert, owner of Bob's Diner located on Route 11/30. "I always thought that this was an outstanding restaurant format. Big salad bar with perceived value and the ability to get a lot of people through."
Others just wanted to see if there was anything they could use in everyday living.
"We just moved into a new place and we needed some dining room chairs and a dining room table," said Alex Sheets, whose family just moved back here a few months ago.
There were a couple dozen sets of tables that sold anywhere from $100 to $200 dollars, with chairs being sold primarily in sets of eight going anywhere from $40 to $80. Other iconic pieces of furniture, like the bar, was sold. The bottom of the bar sold for $400, one of the more expensive bids on the day, and the top of the bar went for $200. The top and bottom were not sold together.
Even items like an old Christmas tree that was still around from the December 2011 closing was sold for $10.
With the crowd of more than 200 people moving from room to room, Eric Nathan, owner of Nathan Auction & Real Estate and the auctioneer during the event, was happy with the turnout.
When asked how successful the auction was on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best it could have gone, Nathan replied with a confident "11." "I wasn't surprised by the number of people, but I was pleased," he said. "It's an iconic place and this stuff holds a lot of memories for people. People know that when I have an absolute auction I sell everything. It's kind of a combination of attraction."
An absolute auction is when the sale is awarded to the highest bidder and there is no reserve price which sets a minimum "floor" price in order for the item to be sold. The items disposed of Monday were sold in "as is" condition and their new owners took responsibility for them upon finalizing the sale. "Hope springs eternal in the restaurant industry," said Nathan, "and who doesn't want a piece of this establishment which has been a fixture in our town for over 40 years?"
The building that eventually came to house the Sirloin Saloon was first built in 1850 and underwent a major remodeling in 1974. Over the course of more than 160 years, the building has been a marble mill, an apple mill, a dance club, and a restaurant. It has had a river run under it, a dance floor, and even go-go girls.
At the Development Review Board meeting held Wednesday, Oct. 10, Dick Smith, a local resident of Manchester and the president of the Manchester Historical Society, said that the board should take into consideration how sensitive the area is and what it means to the community as the demolition of the building looms.
"That is the last remaining marble mill in Factory Point (the name used to describe the area which was at one time the site of several commercial and manufacturing enterprises in Manchester) and I think it is the back third of the building," said Smith. "I was just thinking if there was some way a design could incorporate a common area and make that part of the building an attraction."
Smith also pointed out that it might be a good idea to keep some marble as part of the building along with any other material from the old building that can be displayed, it would give the building a purpose other than retail, as well as serve as an attraction.
The building was purchased for $700,000 last December by Ben Hauben, a local developer who has been at the center of several of Manchester's more prominent retail projects.
Craig Hunter, director of facilities for Manchester Designer Outlets, a Hauben company, told the board members that the building was in poor condition. The current layout of the building only made it work as a restaurant and that adding a common area into the mix would throw all kinds of things out of whack. However, if something was found that had some significance to the history of the building they would consider putting that on display, he said. Like some community members, Hunter said he realized the significant role the building has played for decades.
"We are sad to come to you, [the DRB], and ask to take down something that has been a part of the town for so many years and its something that people have so many good memories of," Hunter said. "But we have looked at it at from every different angle and can't find any reasonable way to keep the structure the way it is and continue this operation in a positive cash flow way."
Designs for the new building are currently underway, he said.
"We would love to find a restaurant to take part of it and we are working on that," said Hunter. "The restaurant business is pretty tough these days, but we are looking into it."