London Grill, which helped lead Fairmount into a destination-dining neighborhood over the last three decades, has a sale on the table as longtime owners Michael McNally and Terry Berch McNally have struck an agreement with Jack McDavid and Joe Spina, two investors from the neighborhood.
For now, London is open as usual. Though settlement is scheduled for May, a transition date has not been confirmed. McDavid said he and Spina, who will acquire the London name, are searching for an operator.
Terry McNally, confirming that she and her former husband, the chef, had been trying to sell for several years, said their plans are uncertain.
London, at 23rd Street and Fairmount Avenue, has been the site of a bar-restaurant since 1843, when a pair of Russian immigrants opened the Golden Lager Saloon. It later was McMenamin’s (no relation to the one in Mount Airy) and then, from 1968, a tavern called London.
The McNallys bought London in 1991 after working there and elsewhere in the neighborhood for a few years prior. They upgraded the tap list to include craft beer and the menu to focus on thoughtfully sourced ingredients. They also were among the first to offer sidewalk dining when they received approvals in 1996.
In the early 1990s, the McNallys bucked the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau to get the visitors’ map changed, because its northern border was Spring Garden Street. They also backed the historical certification for Eastern State Penitentiary a block away in a bid to fight off developers. They started a Bastille Day party, where Terry McNally for decades dressed as Marie Antoinette and tossed Tastykakes to crowds assembled below.
McDavid is further expanding his holdings in Fairmount, where he arrived in 1989 to take over Fairmount Firwehouse, now Jack’s Firehouse. He also owns the buildings that house Bridgid’s, Frankie Ann’s (formerly Rembrandt’s), and Urban Saloon, among other properties.