CLEVELAND, Ohio — Sokolowski’s University Inn has apparently closed for good, and the building, located at 1201 University Road in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, is up for sale on Howard Hanna’s website for $2.7 million.
The building was listed on Howard Hanna’s website on Monday, Oct. 12, and has generated interest but no official offers, said Hanna Commercial Real Estate managing director Tony Visconsi.
The price tag of $2.7 million is based both on the building’s extensive history and also its location.
“It’s probably got the best views in the city. It looks out over downtown Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River,” Visconsi said. “We looked at the value of the actual land, which is four tenths of an acre, and then we looked at the value of the brand — the Sokolowski brand, that’s been there as a successful restaurant since 1923. It’s got value in both respects. It’s not only valuable piece of property, but also if someone wanted to buy it and keep it as a restaurant, it was a very profitable operation.”
According to Visconsi, the Sokolowski family has expressed that if they don’t find the right buyer or the right deal, they may opt to reopen Sokolowski’s down the line.
“Potentially, they would reopen,” he said. “COVID obviously didn’t, and doesn’t help, looking into the future. It’s so unpredictable, but yes, that is an option.”
Reports that Sokolowski’s University Inn would close arose Tuesday, Oct. 13. The nearly 100-year-old eatery remained largely silent on social media Tuesday and Wednesday but shared updates and tributes on its Instagram page.
Sokolowski’s Instagram account reposted a tribute story initially posted by Instagram user @_devbot_. Sokolowski’s page added the caption: “We good! And looking forward to retirement! We are ready for new chapters.”
Sokolowski’s management and ownership did not respond to multiple interview requests from cleveland.com.
Sokolowski’s University Inn first opened its doors in 1923, serving up a mix of Polish and Midwestern favorites in its cafeteria-style ordering line. The blue-collar joint found success in Tremont in the decades to come, earning a James Beard “American Classics” award in 2014.
The family-owned restaurant stayed in the Sokolowski family for three generations, most recently run by siblings Bernie Sokolowski, Mike Sokolowski and Mary Lou Balbier.
The eatery was going strong in recent years, until the coronavirus pandemic led to Ohio’s restaurant shutdown in March. At that time, Sokolowski’s expanded its takeout offerings with dinners to heat up at home, according to a Plain Dealer report. The expansion was meant to keep the business afloat and employees on the payroll.
“What we want to do is we want to be able to cover the salaries, and cover our food costs. We really want to keep the place going,” Bernie Sokolowski said at the time. “Everybody’s depending on us.”
The takeout business didn’t last long; Sokolowski’s announced on March 30 that it would cease its takeout meals and close temporarily due to the pandemic. It hasn’t reopened.
Cindy Barber, owner of the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, shared the news of the restaurant’s closure on Facebook, and shared well-wishes to the Sokolowski family.
“I understand being old and tired,” she said in a private message with cleveland.com. “They have valuable land that they are putting on the market. I am just sad a younger person couldn’t keep it going, but I am sure the value of the property for development will be more than a restaurateur can probably manage.”
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
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