Rathskeller closing its doors

Monica Geub wiped tears away from her face as she scrolled through iPhone photos of her family-owned bar of 35 years, the Rathskeller pub in Old World Village.

The underground pub is closing its doors Sunday after the building's new owners, Orange Investment Inc., decided to convert the property into office space.

"Don't get me wrong, but I'm an emotional person, very emotional. But you don't realize how strong you are until you go through something like this," she said Monday afternoon, choking back more tears. "But I've been holding it together pretty good compared to everybody else. It's not easy."

Geub wiped her face again, took a deep breath and refilled a mug with beer for one of her customers.

"If these walls could talk, they would have so much to talk about," she said.

Orange Investment finalized the deal Feb. 8, which included the two floors above the bar and the church next door, said Jim Eruyan, a partner with the group.

"We're completely devastated," said Cyndie Kasko, whose family built Old World Village and owns the German restaurant. "I've been here my whole life and they've been a part of my whole life ever since I can remember. It's a tragedy. It's a big loss to the German community. Not only did we lose the German church, we now lost one of the most important underground pubs here in Orange County and that's going to be a big hole in the hearts of the Germans that have frequented here and kept us afloat all these years."

The property investment company had been looking for two years for a headquarters location and moved forward with the deal because the Rathskeller didn't have a lease and it was close to the freeway.

"It was a sad situation for me too," he said. "If they had a lease, we would have reconsidered."

The company plans on converting the two floors into office space and the basement as a dining area for six employees, Eruyan said.

He added that he wishes the best for the owners of the Rathskeller and hopes that they find a new location.

Geub's parents, Loni and Edith Hauff opened the Rathskeller when Old World Village opened in 1978. It was a likely business choice for the Hauffs.

"My husband and I were both raised in that type of business," Edith Hauff said. "My aunt owned a bar and my grandfather had a brewery in Yugoslavia and my husband's sister had a bar in Germany."

The Hauffs wanted to bring the experience of a traditional underground German pub to the U.S., where random patrons were more inclined to talk to one another.

"If they didn't know each other before, they will know each other in 15 minutes," Edith said.

Geub and her husband, Axel, have been overseeing the day-to-day operations of the pub for more than 20 years. Monica runs the bar and cooks for customers in the afternoon and Axel takes over for her at night.

More than 50 beer mugs with regulars names on the bottom used to hang over the bar, but as news spread of the Rathskeller closing, they've stopped by and taken their mugs. Wall cases that housed other mugs sit empty and the shadow of a deer head outlines one wall.

Local Ron Roesch, 73, has been going to the Rathskeller since 1990. It reminded him of an underground pub he found in Germany.

"This is 'Cheers,' 'Coyote Ugly,' the bar in 'St. Elmo's Fire,'" Roesch said. "It's like that experience. If you've never had it, you wish you did and you can't go buy it. As far as I know, there's no other place like this."

Axel, who met Monica at the Rathskeller when he moved here from Germany in 1981, said it has been hard for his family. His father-in-law Loni had a heart attack last Wednesday from the stress. Axel has been having chest pains of his own.

"I'm still in shock. I'm not over it," Axel said. "People are buying my life away from me. I can't describe it. I have this thing sitting on my chest and it's not going away."

Monica said her parents will take the name of Rathskeller after they close on Sunday, but she and her husband are looking for a new location to hopefully open a new restaurant.

"It's not easy, but I'm a positive thinker and a fighter. I won't give up that easy," she said through her tears. "Things happen for a reason. When one door closes, another one opens up."

Patrons can get in one last drink at an all-day going away party on Saturday at the Rathskeller.


Twitter: @acocarpio

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