The City Council on Wednesday gave approval for a new hotel on the corner of 17th and Chancellor, a move that paves the way for the demise of beloved 24-hour diner Little Pete’s.
The diner, located under a parking garage and known to serve the powerful and powerless alike, was praised by some members of the City Council, who expressed hope that downtown Philadelphia could sustain popularly priced restaurants.
“Some of the negatives of development are that people have to be relocated,” said Councilman Bill Greenlee. “Despite all these upscale restaurants in Center City, I think there should be a place for a Little Pete’s.”
The diner, and the parking garage that stands over it, will be demolished to make room for a 13-story, 310-room Hyatt-branded hotel.
Executives behind the construction have pledged to help find a new home for the diner.
While there is no official closing date for the eatery, when it does close, it will mark the steady decline of the 24-hour diner in Center City — there are just a handful left.
“They’re a dying breed for sure,” said Patrick Grossi, of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. “The dining room is like a time capsule.”
Owner John Koutroubas held out hope that the developers could help him find a new place. Still, he acknowledged about its passing.
“I grew up in that place,” said owner John Koutroubas, “I grew old in that place. From judges to street people, they come in, they ask for food, I give them food.”
The closure of the diner has become something of a cause celebre on the Internet. “Daily Show” correspondent John Hodgman launched a campaign to preserve the eatery, where diners have to walk through the kitchen to use the bathroom.
“So my favorite scrapple counter in the world, LITTLE PETE’S, is almost assuredly dead in greasy dishwater because SOME MEN WITH COMPANIES WANT A HOTEL THERE,” Hodgman wrote in a blog post earlier this year.
Though the diner is known for having employees whose tenures have spanned decades, even as it prepares to close it has seen a mix of new and old.
Natasha Martinez, 30, has worked as a waitress for a few months. In that time, she’s come to know the regulars, even a handful that eat three meals a day there.
“The people that come here are like family,” Martinez said.